The Employment Relations Amendment Bill – Update

The final report of the Education and Workforce Committee (“EWC”) on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill (“ERAB”) was released on 7 September 2018.
The EWC has suggested changes regarding:

  • union delegates’ entitlement to reasonable paid time to represent employees;
  • employer obligations relating to sharing/providing information about the union’s role and functions to new employees, along with various mechanical provisions;
  • requirements under which a collective agreement must include rates of wages or salaries;
  • negotiation of terms and conditions that are more favourable than those included in a collective agreement can occur during the “30-day period”;
  • types of roles exempt from prescribed rest and meal break requirements (companies engaged in the protection of New Zealand’s national security may be exempt);
  • how financial compensation in lieu of breaks is to be calculated;
  • allowance of Ministerial amendments to categories of work protected from restructuring in certain circumstances; and
  • minor or technical errors no longer invalidate strike notices.

The above-mentioned suggested changes are considered to be the main recommended ERAB amendments.  Minor and technical amendments were not covered in the EWC’s report.
The EWC has not recommended any fundamental changes to trial period legislation.  It is still proposed that trial periods are restricted to employers with fewer than 20 employees, however the terminology has been slightly changed to ‘small – medium sized employers’.  ‘Small – medium sized employers’ is defined as employers with fewer than 20 employees at the beginning of the day on which a relevant employment agreement is entered into. 
As highlighted in the recent Employment Court case of Labour Inspector v Smiths City Group Ltd, there is currently no legislative definition of ‘wages’ in the Employment Relations Act 2000 or the Minimum Wage Act 1983.  Perhaps as result, the EWC has recommended that a definition of ‘wages’ be inserted into the ERAB.  It is recommended that ‘wages’ includes “the amounts payable for time, piece work, or by way of commission (whether wholly or in part)”.  This definition will be helpful for employers calculating employees’ minimum entitlements. 
We will update you on any further changes once the ERAB undergoes its second reading in Parliament. 
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries whatsoever.

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