2018 Employment Law Round Up and a quick look into 2019

As we start to settle into 2019 let’s take a quick look at what employment law related changes occurred in 2018.

In an article published by Business.govt.nz they outlined the following:

  • An increase in the minimum wage.  The adult minimum wage rate (before tax) went up by 75 cents to $16.50 an hour.  The starting out and training rates rose by 60 cents to $13.20 an hour.
  • The Government passed legislation that aimed to save businesses time and to ensure IRD received more timely and accurate information for calculating tax and entitlements.  From 1st April 2018 it became voluntary for businesses to file payroll information every payday (Payday filing), rather than once a month.  From 1st April 2019 it will become compulsory.
  • Parental leave changes were effective from 1st July 2018 which included:
    • For employees taking parental leave for a child born (or who came into the employee’s care) the government-funded parental leave payments increased from 18 weeks to 22 weeks.
    • The number of hours that an employee can do paid work while they are on parental leave increased from 40 hours to 52 hours during the parental leave period.
  • From 1st June 2018 new hazardous substances regulations were applied (Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017):
    • Additional training requirements for hazardous substances.
    • Requirements for storing certain classes of hazardous substances outside a hazardous substances location.
    • Requirements around storing certain classes of hazardous substances at a transit depot.

If you’d like to read the full article and to check that you are across any new rules that apply to you, then please click here.  Each law change section has links to more information.

 

And what does 2019 have in store for us?  Here are three that I’ve highlighted in more detail below.
Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018

In December 2018 the Government passed one of their most important legislative agenda pieces, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018.  The Bill restores protection for employees, strengthens the role of collective bargaining in the workplace, and changes who can use the 90-day trial period provisions.  In some respects, we seem to be rolling back to how it was as recently as 2015.  Here’s a brief overview:

  • Most changes take effect in two stages, the first wave from 12th December 2018 with the second being from Monday 6th May 2019.
  • There are a high number of changes that are designed to strengthen a union’s bargaining power, so if you have union representation in your business please click here for further information.
  • The following changes are designed to strengthen employee rights in the workplace, the effective dates for these changes are included in brackets:
    • Reinstatement has been restored as the primary remedy for unfair dismissal (December 2018).
    • New categories of employees may apply to receive the protections afforded to ‘vulnerable employees’ through an application process set out in the Act (December 2018).
    • 90-day trial periods have been removed for all but small businesses with fewer than 20 employees (May 2019).
    • Protections for all vulnerable workers during restructuring have been restored (May 2019).
    • The right to set rest and meal breaks have been restored, with some limited exemptions for employers in specified essential services or national security services (May 2019).
Minimum Wage Increase

In December 2018 the Government announced an increase to the minimum wage rates (before tax) which are to be effective from 1st April 2019.  The adult minimum wage rate will increase by $1.20 per hour to $17.70 an hour.  The starting-out and training minimum wage rates will increase by 96 cents to $14.16 an hour.

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Bill

In July 2018 the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill passed its third reading in Parliament and aims to enhance legal protection in the workplace for people affected by domestic violence.  The following changes come into effect on 1st April 2019:

  • Employees affected by domestic violence are entitled to:
    • Up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year, in order to deal with the effects of domestic violence.  Employees will be able to take this leave as needed – similar to the existing sick leave and bereavement leave provisions.
    • Request a short-term variation to their working arrangements (up to two months or shorter) to which the employer must respond to urgently and within 10 working days. The variation can include changes to hours of work, location and duties of work.
  • Employees will be able to raise a dispute if they believe that their employer unreasonably refused a request made under the new provisions, and must do so within six months.

The law also explicitly prohibits an employee being treated adversely in their employment on the grounds that they are, or are suspected to be, a person affected by domestic violence.

So, it looks like 2019 is going to be another busy year with a number of quite substantial employment law changes heading our way.  TBD HR can provide support and guidance to you as these changes are rolled out this year, give me a call today.