It's been a busy time here in the office, and we know that many changes have hit employers in the last few months, with more to come in the coming days.
Here are our top 2021 Employment Law changes for you to get your head around and make sure you have something to manage; if not, give us a call on 0800 47 83 54.
#1 Minimum Wage increase from the 1st of April 2021.
The Government has been steadily increasing the minimum wage to be the living wage required to live in our country, meet ends meet, and ensure a positive and healthy workforce. It will continue to rise with the labour government until everyone is on the living wage. This year on the 1st of April, it increased to $20 per hour. For you, this means that you need to prepare your clients also for increases in their rates for security so that you can continue to have a profitable business. Planning and management are essential.
#2 New Public Holiday – Matariki
Matariki is the new "New Zealand" day, touted as a day to celebrate New Zealand's things, from our new year to celebrate our culture. Matariki is a crucial period in the year where things renew and start fresh. Starting from 2022, the 24th of June will be our first official Matariki public holiday, and each year the date will change. So please plan for next year and put it into your calendars now!
#3 Security Industry included under Vulnerable Workers
The Government recently made changes to The Employment Relations Order 2021 (Extending Part 6A Protections to Security Officers). It gives security officers extra employment protections, the same ones currently held by cleaning, catering, and laundry and caretaking workers. It offers the following protections to security officers if the business is sold, transferred or contracted out to another employer, or if the company lost the security contract or the client decides to move the security function in house:
Continuity of employment: security officers can choose to transfer their employment to the new employer. But please note that the new employer will be able to go through a new restructuring process and make employees redundant.
The same employment conditions: security offices can keep their existing employment terms and conditions and any types of leave that they may have left as if there was no change of employer.
Security offers can also decide not to transfer to the new employer, but this could mean that they will be made redundant by the original employer.
Vulnerable workers are considered to be at greater risk of losing their job due to a lack of bargaining power and working in sectors often sold, transferred or contracted out. The additional requirements set out a process to follow when a different employer will take over an employee's work. The rules give these workers the right to transfer over to the new employer on their existing terms and conditions of employment.
Restructuring for vulnerable workers
The employees will choose whether to transfer to the new employer on their existing terms and conditions. If they decide to do this, they will become employees of the new employer as if nothing had changed.
Employees must give their election notice to their current employer as soon as practicable, but no later than ten working days from the time the employee is provided with the information from the employer (unless the employer and employee agree upon an alternative timeframe). The current employer must send the election notices to the incoming employer as soon as practicable, but no later than five working days from the time the employer receives the election information from the employee.
Employers, employees and unions can negotiate alternatives to employee transfer, such as redeployment within the existing business. However, any alternative arrangements must be in writing.
Employees can also decide not to transfer to the new employer. When the employee chooses to not transfer to a new employer, their existing employer can make the employee redundant.
The new employer may make vulnerable workers redundant
Once employees have transferred, it's up to the new employer to decide how best to manage their resources. This may mean that the new employer makes some employees redundant. If transferred employees are made redundant because of the transfer situation, they may become eligible for redundancy entitlements:
- where an employee's employment agreement covers redundancy entitlements in a restructuring situation, this agreement continues to apply after the transfer
- if the employment agreement is silent on redundancy entitlements in a restructuring situation, the employee may be eligible for either:
- redundancy entitlements agreed with the new employer, or
- redundancy entitlements decided by the Employment Relations Authority (if the employee and the new employer can't agree).
ERA can help negotiate redundancies
Employers, employees and their unions may get help from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
The ERA will examine the negotiation process used by the employee and employer and tell them what more they should use to try and reach an agreement. If the ERA decides that further negotiation is not needed, they can set the redundancy entitlements to be provided to the employee. If they do this, then the ERA will take into account:
- any other redundancy entitlements contained in the employment agreement
- the employee's length of service with their new employer and their previous employer
- how much notice of the redundancy the employee received
- the employer's ability to provide redundancy entitlements
- the likelihood of the employee being able to get another job, and
- any other relevant matters.
It is suitable for employers and employees to keep these things in mind when agreeing on redundancy entitlements.
To whom does this apply?
The new Order includes those that:
- guard real or personal property
- monitor premises on-site (e.g., via CCTV)
- control crowds at events
- escort prisoners or perform courtroom custodial duty
- undertake mobile patrols, or
- collect cash from premises (e.g., banks, retail stores).
The changes will not apply to those that work as private investigators, security technicians, security consultants, confidential document destruction workers, repossession workers, personal guards, court security officers, police officers, or corrections officers.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW!
Firstly, you will need to update your employment agreements to cover this change from the 1st of July. Livewire HR already offers free employment agreements online through our private NZSA portal; get in contact with us via email@example.com. These will be available by Friday the 25th of June 2021. In addition, you will need to have vulnerable workers clause added to your agreements.
Secondly, I would improve your service agreements to include this and the time frames they must give you to cancel a contract. Thus, allowing you time to follow up on the required restructure processes outlined above.
#4 Sick Leave increases
Yes, sick leave is increasing from 5 days to 10 days from the 24th of July 2021. However, it won't come into effect until their anniversary date for their subsequent entitlement of sick leave rolls over. So employees that were employed on the 1st of July 2020 won't be entitled to their increase until December 2021. However, anyone employed from the 1st of July 2021 will be entitled from December 2021 as well.
It will be important that you manage sick leave well, and know when to step in to check in on the employee, to see if there is anything that could require additional support and understanding.
On a positive note, an employee can still accrue a maximum of 20 days of sick leave under the Holidays Amendment Bill.
#5 Bereavement Leave change
The law change allows an employee to take up to three days of paid bereavement leave if they or their partner experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth. People planning to have a child through surrogacy or adoption are also eligible if the pregnancy ends by miscarriage or stillbirth.
Losing a baby is very hard and, unfortunately, quite common – around 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriage is most common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but can happen up until 20 weeks. Losing a baby after 20 weeks is a stillbirth, which is much less common than miscarriage – it affects about 1 in every 200 pregnancies.
Bereavement leave gives an employee time to grieve and take care of matters to do with the bereavement. Bereavement leave can be taken at any time and for any purpose relating to death, miscarriage or stillbirth, and does not have to be taken straight away or on consecutive days.
The existing rules on bereavement continue to apply. Employees become eligible for bereavement leave after six months.
Employees are not required to produce proof of pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth.
The law change does not provide bereavement leave for terminations. However, depending on the circumstances, mothers may be eligible to use sick leave following a termination.
#6 Vaccinations for Covid-19
As we all know, Covid is going to be sticking around for a few years to come. However, there are now vaccines that could help protect us again from getting Covid or reducing the likelihood of getting Covid.
Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, your employees can refuse medical treatment. Under the Human Rights Act 1993, they can't be discriminated against if they refuse to have the vaccinations.
To manage staff who do not wish to have the vaccinations, you may have to redeploy them in other areas of your business. If there are no roles for staff to be redeployed to, Employers may have to make employees redundant. I think that, though, you had better be sure that you follow a very good process and that your reasoning is, above all else, fair and reasonable to ensure no personal grievance comes your way.
However, if the role demands it to be front line and as such, it would be deemed to breach the health and safety of the person to be in that position, you will think twice about employing them or putting them in that position without a vaccination. This then begs the question, will staff need to provide documentation like that to continue working in positions of risk. Children at school and early childhood learning centres are required, and I think this will be a "let's see what happens" kind of process moving forward. WorkSafe has provided a guide to managing this more effectively Assessing whether a specific role needs to be performed by a vaccinated worker | WorkSafe
In all things, if you do have to be in this position, ensure you focus on the role and not the worker and complete a risk assessment. In addition, the Covid 19 Public Health response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 requires anyone working in MIQ to be vaccinated, as this is front line work.
#7 Privacy Act 2020
The Privacy Act 2020 came into force last year, and in some sectors, there was a scramble to ensure that people had a policy in place. Now, if you don't have one currently, I do suggest you get one in place. This should also include how to manage not only your client information but also your staff information. Your policy should consist of why you are collecting information, how you will store the information, and what purpose it will be used for.
#8 Working from Home
Covid-19 has made life interesting over the last 15 months. The impact on businesses is, without a doubt been challenging. We had flexible working initiatives in place for the past few years; however, Covid-19 meant that many people decided to continue to work from home, with minimal time in the office. Overseas we see some are still working from home after 15 or 16 months of Covid-19 impact.
So what does this all mean for the workplace? Good question!
It means that you need a policy that works for your organisation around how you will manage situations like this. Yes, in some cases working from home is impossible, however for most office workers and with the technology available, there is little reason not to say yes when an employee requests working from home.
Here is my BUT! Without a policy, how will you manage the employee, ensure productivity, and engage with the team as a whole? With a team working from home, this is where flexibility and leadership come into action. Regular communication and checking in is vital, along with some clear direction on what happens when the work productivity declines. We are all searching for that "work-life balance", which ultimately is a misnomer. There is no such thing when work becomes part of your home. So putting in boundaries as an organisation is vital to ensuring your team's longevity, health, and well-being. Using technology is of benefit here. For example, phones these days can shut off all calls until certain times the following day; use the schedule the email button to send the email first thing the next day, so staff don't receive them at 10 pm and feel obliged to reply.
Email us via firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to obtain a Working from Home Policy .
If I haven't already stated it, now is a great time to update your employment agreements!
There has been a lot going on in Employment Law, as an Employer that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to know everything. What it does mean is that you need to know where to go to, to get good advice and support. At Livewire HR, we pride ourselves on making sure we support our clients with current and relevant information. For more information on what we do and how we can help your business, contact us on 0800 47 83 54.