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Small Business Inundated With Law Changes

10 December 2004

MEDIA RELEASE

Small Business Inundated With Law Changes

New Zealand small and medium businesses are swimming in a sea of legislative changes.

In recent months businesses have had to take on new employee protections in the event of restructuring, changes to parental leave entitlements, amendments to the Employment Relations Act relating to collective bargaining and agreements, preparation for the latest Smoke-free amendments and in the upcoming holidays they will have to understand the Holidays Act as it stands after the latest amendments.

While big business is not immune to these legislative changes, past research shows that implementing new practices and regulations, and managing their enforcement, has a greater impact on small businesses.

Small business effectively spends more time per employee on compliance issues, with firms with between 1 and 5 staff spending 41 hours annually per employee on compliance issues compared to firms with between 21 and 99 staff who average nine hours per employee.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Michael Barnett says many of the Holidays Act amendments have been created to clarify areas that appeared open to interpretation or needed clarification, but any legislative change means small business must set aside the time to understand the law, implement it correctly and monitor on an ongoing basis to ensure they are complying.

Some of the clarifications include all employees who work on a public holiday being paid at least time and a half for the hours that they work. If an employee’s agreement already contains an additional rate such as double time for working on a public holiday then the employee will not get time and a half on top of this rate. If the penal rate is less than time and a half then the employer need only top this up to the time and a half rate for the hours worked. Consequently, if an employee works on a public holiday, they will be entitled to whichever is greater of either the rate stated in their employment agreement or time and a half, as stipulated in the Holidays Act.

Confusion over sick leave entitlements for public holidays has also been dealt with in the recent amendments. An employee who takes sick leave on a public holiday is not entitled to payment at time and a half or an alternative day. The day should be treated as an un-worked public holiday rather than as sick leave or bereavement leave and the employee should be paid for a day off.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Phillips Fox have created a single document, designed to walk businesses through the amendments to the Holidays Act and their responsibilities and entitlements under the law as it stands now.

Businesses can visit www.b-vital.com for a free download of the Holidays Act document [from Thursday 2 December].

ENDS

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