Post-Election Employment Law

With a coalition government imminent, it is clear that we are going to see various changes to employment law. While we can speculate what these might be, there are some proposed changes that are more likely to occur once this coalition is formed.

90 Day Trials

An obvious, much discussed (through the election campaign) policy, are 90 day trial periods.

Since its introduction in 2009 by the then National government, the limitations of trial periods have fluctuated with changing governments with varying levels of public support. With National, Act, and NZF (New Zealand First) all campaigning on restoring the trial periods to all businesses it is highly expected that this will occur.

Fair Pay Agreements

Fair Pay Agreements pursued by Labour were another key focus of the election.

There are currently seven in the works, for waterside workers, bus drivers and cleaners (interurban, rural and urban), hospitality, security officers and guards, commercial cleaners, early childhood, and grocery store workers. With both National and Act campaigning on scrapping Fair Pay Agreements it can be assumed that the Fair Pay Agreements will be removed.

Minimum Wage

Views of changing the minimum wage was divided within the coalition. National had a clear focus on tax relief rather than on increases, while Act wants to freeze wages for the next three years, and NZF want to investigate a $25 per hour minimum wage.

Parental Leave

Another change that we could expect to see is to the parental leave system, and allowing both parents to concurrently take delegated parental leave. National was the only party in the coalition that has commented on parental leave, which makes it difficult to ascertain opposing views within the coalition. However, there is the potential for this policy change to be overlooked for bigger policies as three parties try to intersect their views and campaign promises.

Other considerations

Addressing labour shortages was another key topic in the 2023 elections. Both National and New Zealand First had proposed strategies to address this issue. National’s revolves partly around increasing the allowance of seasonal employees to 38,000, increasing allowance of working holiday visas for worker shortage effected industries, and creating easier pathways for seasonal works to become residents. On the other hand, NZF wants to focus on making New Zealanders top priority in addressing workforce issues, guaranteeing that immigration is focussed on meeting critical employment gaps.

Another significant change could see limits to the way the employment courts operate. ACT in particular campaigned on the view that the courts had become “increasingly unpredictable and tends to rule in the favour of employees”. ACT believes that employers are being burdened with the risk and cost of personal grievances.

In response to this they have discussed reducing the costs of unsubstantiated personal grievances on the employers. Their main proposed amendment aims to create more clarity around employees versus contractors – in particular, preventing people from challenging their employment status if they have entered an explicit contracting arrangement.

Despite any uncertainty this change of government may have created, it is evident that there will be changes within employment law. The outcome of the recent and prolonged jostling for policies and positions for the new incoming government should soon put to rest that uncertainty.

For independent employment advice, contact a member of Govett Quilliam's Employment Law Team today.

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