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PM’s Presser – Probation Won’t Kill Career Change

PM’s Presser – Probation Won’t Kill Career Change


Prime Minister John Key says he does not think workers will be afraid to change jobs under a rollout of the Government’s 90-day probation scheme.

The Government announced Sunday plans to extend its 90-day probation scheme for small businesses to all workplaces, sparking an outcry from unions who say it will be abused and used to intimidate new employees.

The Dominion-Post led Monday with the story of Alison Murray, a former Fairfax subeditor who was dropped from auctioneer firm Dunbar Sloane just two weeks after she was hired.

Murray’s dismissal was covered under the current law, which allows employers with fewer than 20 workers to fire new employees without warning if they have been on the job fewer than 90 days.

But the Government’s proposed changes would see the scheme offered to all businesses regardless of size, along with pay in lieu of statutory leave and more stringent requirements for medical certificates in cases of sick leave.

Murray’s story prompted speculation by unions and political bloggers that the risk of losing employment status will dissuade many more workers from seeking out new jobs, reducing labour mobility.

But Key said in a post-Cabinet press conference he did not think people would be more reluctant to change jobs.

“You’re making the assumption that a person won’t get through the 90-day trial and I don’t think there’s great evidence to support that.”

“If people really are in a job and they feel like they won’t get through the ninety-day probation period, then they trade it out of their contract – and there will be plenty of people who will do that.”

Key said the 90 days’ probation was very fair and balanced and compared it to employment law in Australia, where employees face up to 12 months’ probation before they are entitled to a claim of unfair dismissal.

The changes were about a balance of benefits, he said.

“Is it possible that an employee gets sacked within 90 days and it’s deemed to be [on a basis that is] unfair?

“It’s possible.

“But is it also likely that the vast bulk of people will actually get an opportunity through the law changes we’re creating?

“I think the answer to that is yes.”

Key denied that the changes were a sop to the party’s hard-right constituency.

The policies were moderate and eschewed “lots of things we could be doing”.

“If we were going to be some radical right-wing government we’d be proposing the employment contracts act; we’d be proposing an elimination of good-faith bargaining; we’d be proposing a breaking of the monopolies that unions have in the workplace.

“We’re not doing that,” he said.

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