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Important employment law changes you need to be aware of

By Gibson Sheat

Important employment law changes you need to be aware of

In December last year the Government made some important changes to employment law. Some changes took effect immediately with later effective dates for other changes 1 April and 6 May 2019.

All of the changes extend or protect employees’ and unions’ rights and powers, with new responsibilities or obligations for employers. The main changes which took effect in December:

  • extended union powers of access to workplaces and relating to collective bargaining,
  • reintroduced reinstatement as the primary remedy for personal grievances and
  • removed employers’ rights to make partial deductions from the wages of employees involved in partial strikes, that is, taking low level industrial action.

An important change was the introduction of domestic violence leave and other entitlements, effective on 1 April. There is an entitlement to up to 10 days domestic violence leave each year, and also other associated entitlements for employees affected by domestic violence. Employees also have rights to request flexible working hours and other variations of their working conditions including their place of work, for up to two months.

Employers must respond promptly to requests for domestic violence leave, and must not treat adversely any employee who is affected by domestic violence.

As from 6 May 2019 there are further changes:

Restrictions on use of 90 day trial period

Use of the 90 –day trial period is available only to small and medium size businesses – those employers who employ fewer than 20 employees at the time the new employee is being hired. However, for larger businesses, where 90 day trial periods were validly entered into before 6 May and are still current, they can continue to apply.

Rest and meal breaks

Employees are entitled to 10 minute rest breaks and 30 minute meal breaks at intervals depending on the length of their work period or shift. The basic formula is for the most common work pattern, for employees working an 8 hour day. For these employees the entitlement is two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break, with different intervals and entitlements for different work patterns. The entitlements can be varied by agreement. Employees must be paid for rest breaks (but not the meal breaks) .The new law provides for exemptions in some cases, and for compensation.

If you would like to know more about these changes, how they may affect you, or about any changes needed to your employment agreements and policies, please contact our employment law team (P: +64 4 569 4873).

Topics: Employment