Following the general election result, Labour received enough votes to govern alone and can implement its manifesto policies. Labour's proposed policies could result in significant changes for workplace relations in New Zealand.
The Prime Minister has appointed a new Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Hon Michael Wood.
Within the first 100 days, Labour has promised to legislate to double minimum sick leave entitlements, from five days to ten days a year.
Labour noted it would work with business and unions on implementation timeframes for this change.
During its first term, Labour promised to increase the minimum wage each year. Labour has promised to raise the minimum wage from the current NZD 18.90 to NZD 20 in 2021.
Beyond 2021, Labour has stated that it will continue to have a balanced approach to minimum wage increases.
The Equal Pay Amendment Act 2020 came into force on 7 November. The Amendment Act sets out a new process for employees and unions to make pay equity claims and to bargain for increases in pay rates where it is arguable that the work is, or has been, undervalued and the work is, or was, predominantly performed by female employees.
Fair Pay Agreements
Labour has promised to introduce Fair Pay Agreements in line with the recommendations of the Fair Pay Working Group. Legislation would set the minimum content that must be included in each Fair Pay Agreement.
The key features of Fair Pay Agreements are:
- Agreements would cover both employees and dependent contractors.
- Workers would be represented by registered unions during bargaining.
- Only unions would be able to initiate bargaining for the first agreement.
- Concluding agreements would need over 50% support from workers and over 50% support from employers.
Once agreed, the agreements would cover all employers in the sector but there could be regional variations and exemptions of up to 12 months for employers facing severe financial hardship.
Labour has announced that it will implement the so far unpublished recommendations of the Holidays Act Taskforce to reform the Holidays Act. This would include introducing legislation that simplifies the employer's leave calculation as well as legislating to have sick and annual leave accrue over time, rather than becoming available in a block at six or 12 months.
Labour also intends to allow employees to take bereavement and family violence leave ‘as needed'.
The term ‘dependent contractor' is used to describe workers who operate their own business and may use their own equipment but have little control over their daily work and depend heavily on one firm for most of their income.
Labour has stated that it will extend basic employment rights to dependent contractors. This will include allowing contractors to bargain collectively, introducing a duty of good faith between contracting parties and requiring written contracts.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.