Govt restricts 90-day trials through Employment Law changes

By Talisa Kupenga

The Government has announced 14 employment law reforms, the majority being roll-backs to changes made by the previous Government and a total of four new proposals.

Collective bargaining and union rights will be among the restorations, but the 90-day trial period will be restricted to small businesses due to negotiations by New Zealand First.

“This is the start of a progressive programme in workplace relations which includes the passing of equal pay legislation, lifting the minimum wage to $20 an hour by April 2021 and the creation of a framework for fair pay agreements,” says Workplace relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

National Secretary for E Tū Union Bill Newson says “There some other changes that we are delighted with. The improvements in the personal grievance procedure, for example, vulnerable workers, restoration of meal breaks, rest periods that sort of thing."

The new changes include;
- Greater protections against discrimination for union members
- That employers be required to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates
- That employers be required to pass on information about unions in the workplace to prospective employees

Mr Lees-Galloway says the Government believes “everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” but while E Tū Union supports the changes Mr Newson says they don’t go far enough.

"We believe that all workers should have the same rights regardless of the company size they work for and we believe the 90-day trial periods are unfair to workers and they should be improved.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says “We absolutely knew [the Union’s] position going in but we obviously took a different position as well but this is a coalition government at work."

The 2016 Motu report showed no evidence that the 90-day trial period had any effect on encouraging employers to take on more employees. Minister Lees-Galloway says further research will be undertaken to investigate the impacts this trial period by the new government.

E Tū Union says it will argue what it says is an unfair trial period at Select Committee. The Bill's first reading is expected next week.