The Government announced this week that 90 day trial periods will only remain available to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Labour originally campaigned on keeping trial periods on the basis that workers could challenge a dismissal through a new referee service. However, this will no longer be the case.

While trial periods will only be available to small / medium sized businesses, employers will still be able to use probationary periods.

The Government also intends to reverse a number of other amendments to the Employment Relations Act that had been introduced by the former National-led Government. These include:

  • Reintroducing the right to rest and meal breaks, with the exception of some industries such as air traffic controllers where it is not practical for employees to take breaks at the same time;
  • Reintroducing reinstatement as the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal;
  • Restoring protections for all vulnerable workers during restructuring;
  • Reintroducing the requirement that all new employees be covered by the applicable collective agreement for the first 30 days of their employment irrespective of union membership;
  • Restoring the right of union access without prior employer consent;
  • Removing the ability of employers to make deductions for partial strike action such as go-slow, work to rule or the refusal to carry out specific duties;
  • Restoring the requirement to reach agreement in collective bargaining, “unless there is a genuine reason not to”;
  • Removing the ability for employers to opt out of multi-employer collective agreements.

The amendment bill will have its first reading in early February.

The Government has already increased the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour (coming into effect on 1 April 2018), and extended paid parental leave to 22 weeks, effective from 1 July 2018. Parental leave will eventually increase to 26 weeks by July 2020.

In short, the impact of the proposed changes is to strip back out of the Act the changes that have been progressively made over the past 9 years and introduce new requirements on employers to bolster union rights and bargaining power.

If you are in the process of hiring new employees, negotiating contracts of any other employment law matters and would like advice, please contact Talbot Law today.