On 25 January 2018 the government announced amendments to the Employment Relations Act. These amendments are aimed at strengthening employees’ rights and are in large part a roll-back of the previous government’s changes.
The Labour party initially proposed the creation of a referee service which would allow employees to raise a claim for unjustified dismissal within a trial period. As a result of coalition negotiations, the government has announced a more modest alternative- the use of 90 day trial periods will be restricted to employers with fewer than 20 employees.
Employers are currently required to provide employees with “a reasonable opportunity, during the employee’s work period, for rest, refreshment, and attention to personal matters”. The planned amendment would be more prescriptive and specify exactly what breaks employees must have, with some limited exceptions.
The remedy of reinstatement is currently relatively rare as a remedy for unjustified dismissal. The government has signalled its intention to make this remedy more readily available for employees who wish to return to their job after being unjustifiably dismissal.
Vulnerable workers (such as cleaners or caterers) are provided statutory protection on the sale or restructure of a business. The proposed amendment would strengthen these protections and remove the exception for employers with fewer than 20 employees.
Roll backs and additions to collective bargaining and union rights have also been announced. A full summary of the proposed changes can be found here.
Our specialist employment team are available to assist you with any workplace issue you might have as an employee or a business owner. For assistance or concerns regarding what these recent changes could mean to you or your business, please contact our employment team.