Changed employment relations rules will mean increased compliance for employers but are reasonably pragmatic regarding pressures on small firms, says BusinessNZ.
The Government plans to amend the Employment Relations Act to alter the rules around 90 day trials, unfair dismissals, meal and rest breaks, collective agreements and collective bargaining.
BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said many of the changes related to collective agreements and bargaining procedures, which would mostly affect larger businesses. He said most larger businesses would be equipped to cope with the changes that reverse some bargaining and collective agreement rules introduced by the previous Government.
Other changes more directly affected small business, he said.
90-day trial periods
Restricting the availability of 90 day trial periods to small businesses is a better outcome than removing them altogether, Mr Hope said.
“Trial periods allow opportunities for an untried employee while reducing the ‘unfair dismissal’ risk to the employer of it not working out. This is a very real issue for small businesses.
“This decision shows the Government has an understanding of the needs and pressures facing small businesses and has been willing to alter policy to reflect those needs.”
At the same time, the Government has decided to change the rules around unfair dismissals, with reinstatement to again be the primary remedy to an unfair dismissal.
“This will restore an onus on employer and employee to work positively together following a challenged dismissal process – perhaps a good discipline on both parties following an employment relations breakdown,” Mr Hope said.
Meal and rest breaks
The current system – allowing employers and employees to mutually agree on when meal and rest breaks can be taken, depending on the needs of the business – will be changed to a system of statutory breaks with flexibility allowed only in essential services.
“Business has appreciated the flexibility of the current system. Changing to a more regulated approach isn’t ideal for business agility, for example in manufacturing operations.”
Mr Hope said BusinessNZ was encouraged by the Government’s willingness to continue dialogue on the changes.