Recent and upcoming changes to employment law mean you need to review your employment documents. In some situations, compliance may be relatively easy to achieve whereas in others entirely new employment agreements will need to be prepared and signed.
Some of the changes came into effect last year on 12 December, and the remainder will become operational on 1 April and 6 May of this year.
We encourage you to contact our Employment Team specialists Sophie Diedrichs (Wanaka) on [email protected], or Fran Hesp (Queenstown) on [email protected] to have your employment arrangements reviewed and updated.
Operational changes (came into effect on 12 December 2018)
Individual Employment Agreements
Reinstatement is now the primary remedy for unfair dismissal where expressly requested by the employee. This remedy is available when an employee proves a personal grievance claim against their employer and wishes to have their job back.
Changes coming into effect on 1 April 2019
Domestic violence leave
Employees subject to domestic violence will be entitled to take up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year for the purpose of dealing with the effects of domestic violence. This type of leave is similar to existing sick and bereavement leave. An employee is entitled to this leave following six months of continuous employment. The actual domestic violence does not have to have occurred during the course of the employment.
Short term variations to working arrangements can also be requested so that the employee can change their work schedule if necessary, to help them deal with the domestic violence issues they are experiencing. These variations could be changes to hours of work, location etc.
It is anticipated that both the Employment Relations Act and the Human Rights Act will be amended to prohibit any sort of discrimination or adverse treatment where an employer suspects an employee is affected by domestic violence.
Changes coming into effect on 6 May 2019
Rest and meal breaks
From 6 May 2019 rest and meal breaks are changing and it will no longer be possible to pay compensation in lieu of providing the minimum entitlement breaks.
The minimum rest and meal break entitlements will be:
- Work period between 2 and 4 hours: one ten-minute paid rest break.
- Work period between 4 and 6 hours: one ten-minute paid rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break.
- Work period between 6 and 8 hours: two ten-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break.
- Work period over 8 hours: for the first 8 hours - two ten-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break. For work over the first 8 hours additional breaks are provided in step with the hourly bands set out above. For example, for the first 2 to 4 hour period beyond the 8 hours, employees are entitled to one additional ten-minute paid rest break.
The minimum breaks described above need to be taken at the times and intervals prescribed by the Act. Generally speaking, meal breaks need to be taken in the middle of the work period with rest breaks spaced out evenly either side of the meal break.
If your business requires more flexibility, the Act does leave it open for the employer and employee to agree that the minimum breaks will be taken at different times. We recommend recording any such agreement in writing.
It will no longer be possible to pay compensation in lieu of providing the minimum entitlement breaks.
90-day trial clauses
In new employment contracts, entered into after 6 May 2019, 90-day trial clauses will only be available to employers with fewer than 20 employees.
Businesses with 20 or more employees can continue to use probationary periods to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities. A probationary period lays out a fair process for managing performance issues and ending employment if the issues aren’t resolved. Probationary periods do not, however, provide a blanket protection for the employer from a personal grievance claim.
‘Vulnerable employees’ such as cleaners and caterers will be entitled to be transferred as of right to the new business on sale or restructure. ‘Restructuring’ includes contracting out work to a third party and further sub-contracting.
In business sales, the responsibility of compliance falls on both the outgoing employer/business owner and the new employer/business owner. So, if you are thinking of purchasing a business with ‘vulnerable employees’, these changes definitely are something to be aware of and manage.
Keeping on top of your employment compliance is always the best way to limit your business’s exposure, and therefore makes good business planning sense. Our team are here and ready to assist so please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Find out more about our Employment Team specialists, or contact on:
M: +64 (0)21 162 5509
M: +64 (0)22 021 0654