NEW ZEALAND: Annual Update – Expected Labour Law Changes in 2017

Employment contracts

Additional employee protection:  Amendments were made to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (2000 Act) on April 1, 2016, giving employees additional protection in certain areas. All contracts entered into post April 1, 2016 must comply with the new rules. For those contracts agreed prior to this, employers have until April 1, 2017 to ensure the terms comply.

The new rules include:

• payment for cancelled shift work if the employer does not give the employee the prior notice agreed in the employment contract;
• zero-hour contracts must guarantee certain hours and compensation must be paid in return for the employee being available for work; and
• employers can only include provisions restricting an employee’s ability to undertake secondary employment if they have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds. The reasons must be included in the contract.

In addition, all contracts must confirm any agreed hours of work, or if there are none, a description of the alternative working arrangement(s).

Action required:

(1) Understand the new rules, and consider providing training for HR representatives.

(2) Review contracts entered into before April 1, 2016 and, if relevant, amend clauses to ensure compliance. Consider obtaining legal assistance to ensure any amendments are drafted correctly.

(3) Ensure all template contracts are updated where relevant before making employment offers.

Equal Pay

Pay Equity Provisions to be Introduced in 2017:  The government has announced that the Equal Pay Act 1972 and the 2000 Act will be amended in 2017 to address equal pay.

The proposed amendments include:

• Principles to guide employers and employees in identifying, assessing and resolving pay equity claims;
• A process to address pay equity, including an employer/employee bargaining process; and
• New mechanisms for resolving payment issues, including mediation and action by the Employment Relations Authority.

Action required:

(1) Continue to keep abreast of how this develops, and ensure compliance when the rules are in force.

(2) Assess whether there is any pay disparity amongst your staff.

Prepared with assistance from Kensington Swan, Lawyers of Auckland, New Zealand.