Employment changes thoughtful, moderate
Planned changes to employment legislation are thoughtful, moderate, and will be more likely to foster productivity, says BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly.
“The changes will relieve pressure points currently experienced by many of the parties involved in employment relations, including employers, employees, labour inspectors, union reps and mediators.
“And far from being skewed in favour of employers, the changes will put stiffer requirements on employers in a number of areas and increase penalties for employer non-compliance in others. Overall, the changes demonstrate fairness to all parties.”
Mr O’Reilly’s comments on some of the key changes are:
- Extending trial periods to all workplaces: Will give employers more confidence to hire, particularly people at the margins of the workforce.
- Union access requiring employer consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld: Fair to both parties, demonstrates good faith; still substantially more permissive than in other countries we normally compare ourselves with.
- More focus on substance rather than process in personal grievance cases: For employees, will help bring clarity around dismissal cases; for employers will reduce vexatious and opportunist personal grievance claims.
- Simplifying Holidays Act: Will make it easier for employees to understand their rights; will make it easier to comply, especially for small firms, reducing payroll administration costs.
- Holiday pay and other entitlements calculated based on the average of an employee’s pay over the past year: Will make it easier for employees to understand their rights; will remove incentives to ‘game’ entitlements.
- Employees able to cash in the fourth week of annual leave, at employee’s request only: Employers commonly report requests for this ability; this will make the option available.
- Employers and employees able to agree to transfer the observance of public holidays to another working day: Will increase flexibility; recognises cultural diversity in the workplace.
- Employers able to ask for proof of illness or injury more quickly, at employer’s expense: Will reduce pressure on employees to cover for others; will help stop rorts.
- Early mediation services without representation, prior to any formal mediation; Will help the parties involved assess the risks involved prior to formal mediation; will help bring faster resolutions at less cost.
- Removing reinstatement as the primary remedy in dismissal cases: Recognises that reinstatement is often not realistic.
- A code of ethics for employment advocates: Will address some questionable practices, including no-win-no-fee ‘fishing’ cases.
- Formal definition of the role of Labour Inspector: Will help foster professional practice, however, must be accompanied by adequate training and resourcing.
- Allowing Labour Inspectors to issue improvement notices: Will help achieve compliance without litigation.
- Allowing employers and employees to communicate directly during collective negotiations: Will help foster better understanding and communication and will reduce misunderstandings during bargaining.