The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 (which amends the Employment Relations Act 2000 and comes into force on 6 March 2015) makes significant changes to New Zealand employment law. Two particularly noteworthy changes are:
- Flexible working arrangements:
- All your employees will have the right to request flexible working arrangements, not just those responsible for dependants. Employees will be able to request flexible working arrangements from the start of their employment (currently it’s set at six months). The current limit on the number of requests your employee can make in a year will be removed. You must respond to your employee’s request within one month; currently employers have three months to respond.
- Rest and meal breaks:
- The changes introduce more flexible rest and meal break provisions so that your employees have a general right to a reasonable opportunity to rest, eat, drink and deal with personal matters, rather than the strict rules that currently apply. However, if you and your employee can’t agree on the timing of breaks, you have the right to make the decision on this. Also, you must provide reasonable compensation if your business is exempt from the requirement to provide breaks.
Other changes relate to continuity of employment in a restructuring (when a business is sold, for example); the requirement to disclose information to your employees; collective bargaining; and when and how the Employment Relations Authority can make determinations.
Make sure you’re familiar with how the changes will affect your workplace and your employees before the changes come into effect on Friday, 6 March 2015.