Employment Relations Amendment Bill

Most of the proposed changes simply roll back changes made by the National Government in 2013 (secret ballots for strikes) and 2015.

Some of the changes apply from the day after the date of Royal Assent and so will be in force before the end of the year (the first six items in the list below). The others do not come into force until 4 months after the date of Royal Assent and so will not apply until early 2019.

Our view is that while these changes can be seen as a retrograde step from an employer perspective,  we all managed well enough under these rules before 2015 and no doubt we can do so again.  The same can’t be said of Fair Pay Agreements.

In any case it remains to be seen what we’re left with when the Bill is enacted.

To refresh your memory the main changes proposed are:

  • Unions will have right of access to an employer’s premises (subject to existing health and safety and security policies and procedures).
  • Unions may initiate bargaining 20 days before an employer.
  • The ability for an employer to opt out of MECA bargaining will be removed.
  • The ability to seek a declaration from the ERA that bargaining has concluded will be removed.
  • Employers will lose the right to make pay deductions for partial strikes.
  • Reinstatement will be the primary remedy for personal grievances.
  • Delegates will be entitled to “reasonable paid time” to represent employees.
  • Bargaining must result in a collective agreement being concluded (including in the case of a MECA), unless there is a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds, not to do so.
  • Collective agreements must specify the applicable rates of pay.
  • New employees must be employed under the terms and conditions of any applicable collective agreement for the first 30 days of their employment.
  • Employers must share new employee information with the union unless the employee objects. Unless the employee objects within 20 working days, the employer must provide certain information to the union.
  • Trial periods will be limited to businesses employing fewer than 20 employees.
  • Changes will be made to enhance employee rights to continuity of employment in sale and transfer situations
  • Meal and rest breaks will be prescribed (both in terms of timing and duration). In certain cases it will be possible to have an exemption but in such cases “compensatory measures” must be agreed.