Employment law update – do you need to update your contracts and policies?

Published: Thu, Feb 7th, 2019 by Catherine Pendleton

Employment law update – do you need to update your contracts and policies?

Recent law changes: The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 may affect your business, as changes to the law will come into effect this year.

There are a number of key areas that business need to be aware of, including changes to 90-day trial periods and rest and meal breaks:

90-day trial period

From May this year any employment agreement entered into cannot contain a 90-day trial period unless the employer has less than 20 staff.

For those businesses with 20 staff or more, you are able to include a probationary period clause instead.  We can assist you with drafting an appropriate probationary clause for your agreements.

We can also provide advice on the important differences between a trial period and probationary period under law.  Any employee dismissals under probationary periods still need to comply with fairness principles and proper process under employment law.

Rest breaks and meal breaks

The law will now require employers to provide specific rest and meal breaks depending on how many hours are worked.  For example, any employee who works between 4 hours and 6 hours will need to be provided with one 10-minute paid rest break and one 30-minute break. 

Timing of the breaks are also important.  The Act states that the 10-minute paid rest break, for example, ought to be given, as far as is reasonably practicable, one-third of the way through the work period, unless it is previously agreed with the employee when the agreed breaks will be taken.  

We recommend employers update their employment agreements to reflect the changes, so that all staff are aware of their duties and entitlements, and to avoid any potential employment issues relating to breaks.

More information about the full changes brought about by the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018, can be found here.  Our employment team can discuss and advise on all upcoming changes.

Parental leave: Did you know that parental leave entitlements increased from 18 to 22 weeks last year?  Are you paying the right amount?  We can assist with advising on this and other entitlements, and drafting appropriate clauses in employment contracts to reflect the law changes.

Significant increase in employment compensation awards: We have seen a noticeable increase in compensation awards for breaches of employment law. Employers should be aware that compensation awards have traditionally been in the range of $5,000 - $10,000 for some years, however these sums have recently jumped to $10,000 - $20,000.

Worksafe: We are seeing an increasing number of Worksafe investigations in various sectors.  Some of these lead to prosecutions and increasingly hefty fines, however often Worksafe’s primary goal is to improve business sector practices.  It is important businesses have up to date health and safety policies relevant to your industry and sector.  Our firm can assist with drafting policies.  If there is any health and safety incident in your business or you consider there may be a serious risk, we recommend you seek legal advice early.

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Contact Catherine Pendleton
Phone: (09) 486-2168
Email: catherine@turnerhopkins.co.nz

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