Alexa Carey, Associate

Sweeping changes to employment law by Labour could see 90 day trial periods disappearing and rest and meal breaks returning. 

90 day trial periods caused a stir when they were first introduced by the National Government as they allow employers to effectively fire an employee without cause and without any process.  The flipside to this is that trial periods incentivise employers to give new employees a chance in the workplace knowing that if it doesn’t work out they can dismiss them. 

The Government intends to ban 90 day trial periods for businesses with more than 19 employees.   This still sees around 95% of New Zealand businesses which are classed as ‘small’ being able to utilise the controversial trial period law.  However, these businesses only employ around 30 % of all employees in NZ. 

Labour also proposes to reinstate mandatory rest and meal breaks, minimum rights which were only recently reformed in 2015.  Whilst currently employers must allow reasonable rest and meal breaks there is no longer a prescribed way for these to occur and essentially it is left to the employer and employee to negotiate if and when breaks occur.  There will be some exceptions, such as for ‘essential services’ jobs where it is not reasonably practical to have set rest and meal breaks, or for multiple employees to break at the same time.  However it seems that any exceptions will be minimal. 

Although we are only at the early stages of the legislative process, it is important for employers to remain alert to any forthcoming changes to employment law as there could be significant implications for them.  If and when the legal overhaul occurs employers should seek expert advice in particular around Employment Agreements, minimum entitlements and the hiring/dismissal processes. 

Billings Lawyers have a wealth of expertise in Employment Law matters.  Contact us today – we are happy to discuss your options and find the best solution for you or your business. 

Contact:   Alexa Carey | acarey@billings.co.nz | (06) 757 3944

The content of this article is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely on this article as advice.