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Updates in Employment Law – Recent Changes to Employers’ Obligations

10 April 2019

Minimum Wage:

As from 1 April 2019, the minimum wage has been increased to $17.70 per hour (with the starting out or training rate increased to $14.16). Employers are required to advise any affected employees and record the change in writing. This can be done by drafting a Variation Letter for the employee to sign. A copy of the signed Variation Letter should be retained for the employer’s record, which will then be available in the event of an audit by Labour inspectors.

It is also important to ensure that wages of employees whose pay rates are defined in relation to the minimum wage (for example, 5% above the minimum rate) are also increased to reflect the new minimum wage. As employers, you should be aware that a potential effect of this increase in the minimum wage is to put pressure on other wages; especially if, you wish to maintain a gap in pay rates or relativity between junior and more experienced employees. 

Domestic Violence:

Also, from 1 April 2019, employers are required to allow employees affected by domestic violence up to 10 days paid leave. An employee may take this leave as and when required, in a similar manner to existing sickness or bereavement leave. An affected employee may also apply for a short-term (up to 2 months) variation to their working arrangements; such as, hours of work, location, or duties.

Employers must ensure they do not treat an employee adversely on the grounds that they are, or suspected to be, affected by domestic violence.

Trial Periods:

As from 6 May 2019, businesses with more than 20 employees will no longer be able to include trial periods in their terms of employment; although, employers with less than 20 employees will still be able to do so. Instead of trial periods, businesses will have the option of imposing a probationary period, but if a new employee is dismissed during this period, the employer will be left open to a claim for unjustified dismissal. During a probationary period, the employer is still required to have cause to dismiss an employee and follow a fair and reasonable process before taking that step.

If you have any queries concerning the changes or would like assistance in reviewing or advising on terms of employment, please do not hesitate to contact Brett Vautier (DDI: (09) 356 8231; b............@glaister.co.nz)