Employment Law Update 2019

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Employment law has steadily developed over the years to reflect a change in society’s attitude to the employment relationship from being one of master and servant to one where the bargaining strength of employers and employees is more fairly balanced.  We are on the verge of further significant changes following the Labour-led Government’s focus on further balancing the rights of employers and employees.  In essence the changes generally provide greater rights for employees.  Some of the proposed changes are:   

90 Day Trial Periods – this will only be available to employers with fewer that 20 employees.  This is likely to come into effect from 6 May, 2019.  Employers with more than 20 may want to consider using probationary periods instead.

Rest and Meal Breaks – these will become more prescriptive as was the case pre 2015.  This means the timing and duration of meal breaks will be set out under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (“the Act”).  For example, an employee working a standard 8 hour day, will be entitled to a paid 10 minute “rest break” after 2 hours of work, a 30 minute unpaid “meal break” after 4 hours of work, and a further 10 minute paid “rest break” after 6 hours of work.  This however will be subject to limited exceptions for workers in essential services where the nature of the role makes it impractical and potentially dangerous for employees to take rest and meal breaks as required by statute.

“Reinstatement” the Primary Remedy – Reinstatement was the primary remedy pre 2011.  The change in this regard proposes to make reinstatement the primary remedy where it is found an employee has been unjustifiably dismissed.  The reasoning behind the proposed change is encourage an environment where the employer and employee make an attempt to try and repair the relationship as opposed to employees receiving monetary payout.

Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill – proposes to amend section 69 of the Holidays Act 2003 so that bereavement leave will be available to an employee who has suffered a miscarriage.  If this Bill were to pass, parents who have suffered a miscarriage will be entitled to 3 days bereavement leave in the event of a miscarriage.

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018 (“the VPA”) – the VPA comes into force on 1 April 2019.  It aims to provide support for victims of domestic violence to remain in paid employment.  The three main changes that will affect a workplace when the VPAt comes into force are:

  • An employee affected by domestic violence can request a change to their working arrangements, which can include location, their duties or other terms in the Agreement that requires variation in order to assist the employee deal with being a victim of domestic violence.  The employer will have 10 working days from when a request is received from an employee to respond.  In the event the employer requires proof the employee is affected by domestic violence, the request for proof will have to be made within 3 working days of receiving the request from the employee; 
  • Employees affected by domestic violence will be entitled to up to 10 days paid leave per year if the affected employee has at the time been working for the employer for 6 months or more; and
  • There will be protections in place to prevent discrimination against employees affected by domestic violence whether that is while seeking employment or during employment.  The Human Rights Act 1993 and personal grievance provisions under the Act will also be amended to be in line with changes to the VPA. 


If you would like to discuss any matters relating to these employment law changes or any other employment related matter, please contact:
Employment law specialist, Rachael Chandra
Phone on 09 836 0939 or
Email rachael.chandra@smithpartners.co.nz 
Send an online enquiry here.