90-day trials to be for SME businesses only

  • News
  • January 25, 2018
  • The Register team
90-day trials to be for SME businesses only

The controversial 90-day trial legislation is to be changed under a new bill amending the Employment Relations Act 2000. Among other changes, it will mean 90-day trials will only be available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway today announced a set of new legislative changes aimed at providing greater protection to workers and strengthening the role of collective bargaining in the workplace.

“Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system,” says Lees-Galloway. “Good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers. Under the previous Government the balance tipped away from fair working conditions for workers. We will restore that balance.

“Many of the changes in the Bill are focused on lifting wages through collective bargaining. Wages are too low for many families to afford the basics. This Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

The new legislation largely consists of roll-backs to changes made under the previous National government. Key retail-relevant points from the full summary are:

  • Restoration of statutory rest and meal breaks. This rolls back 2015 changes removing workers’ guaranteed right to meal and tea breaks – Cotton On came under fire for being among the first to attempt these breaks’ removal.
  • Restriction of 90-day trials to SME employers with 19 employees or fewer. All employers will retain access to probationary periods, which operate similarly but don’t allow ‘fire-at-will’ unjustified dismissal.
  • Reinstatement will be restored as the primary remedy to unfair dismissal.
  • Restoration of bargaining and union rights. This includes the duty to conclude collective bargaining unless there’s a good reason not to, and the repeal of partial-strike pay deductions.

There’s also a suite of new proposals. These include requirements for employers to: include pay rates in collective agreements; provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers; and pass on information about unions to new staff.

Greater protections against discrimination for union members are also part of the proposal package.

The legislation is expected to have its first reading early next month. The proposed rise in minimum wage to $16.50 is expected to take effect in April, and is part of a Government plan to lift it to $20 per hour by 2021.

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