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Employment law reforms announced

Employment law reforms announced

Employment law reforms announced

Friday 5 January, 2018

The Labour-led coalition Government has recently announced the first round of the employment law reforms that it promised pre-election.  Although change was expected, the exact nature and extent of those changes had previously been unknown. 

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced to Parliament in early February.  The Bill records that the changes are “intended to introduce greater fairness in the workplace between employees and employers, in order to promote productive employment relationships”.  Key changes include:

  • Restoring statutory rest and meal breaks for the majority of employees;
  • Extending the protections of employees in vulnerable industries;
  • Restoring reinstatement as the primary remedy to unjustified dismissal; and
  • Strengthening of collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace.

However, the most notable change is in restricting the use of 90-day trial periods to employers with 19 employees or less, leaving larger employers with access only to “probationary periods”.  Whilst probationary periods can be an effective means of ending the employment of an unsuitable employee, care must be taken as to how that is carried out as the rules as to due process apply.

The Bill will have its first reading in February and is expected to become law later in the year.

Other changes enacted already by the new Government include extension of paid parental leave and an increase to the minimum wage. In April, the minimum wage will increase to $16.50.

If you would like to further discuss the changes and what they might mean for you or your business please feel free to contact our Employment Team.

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