Sweeping Workplace Changes in New Zealand

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On April 1, 2011, the Government’s Employment Relations and Holiday Act went into effect, setting forth several key workplace changes for employers with operations in New Zealand. This article will discuss the practical issues that employers must focus on while implementing the requirements of this new law.

Union Access

Employers must respond to union requests to access the workplace within one working day. Where access is refused, the employer must give written reasons by the end of the working day after the refusal. Employers should ensure that their managers know their obligations and rights, including how to respond to these union requests.

Communication During Collective Bargaining

Employers are now able to speak directly with their employees during collective bargaining on matters relevant to the bargaining. If employers communicate with their employees during the bargaining period, employers must be mindful that those communications are consistent with the employer’s duty of good faith.

Trial Periods

All employers may use 90-day trial periods for new employees. Previously, the voluntary 90-day trial period only existed for new employees of businesses with fewer than twenty employees. It is expected that courts will strictly interpret trial period clauses. Thus, for the trial clause to be effective, the employment agreement containing the trial clause should contain simple language and must be signed by both parties before the employment starts. Remember, employees who agree to a 90-day period will not be able to raise a personal grievance for dismissal within that period.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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