The long awaited changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 will be in force tomorrow.

Most will likely be welcomed by employers so this may be a timely opportunity to revisit your employment agreements and practices to ensure that they are compliant.  This is particularly so if you will be engaged in collective bargaining or restructuring this year.

Key changes

  • Increased flexibility for rest breaks and meal breaks, requiring employers to provide employees with a "reasonable opportunity" for rest and meal times
  • Flexible working arrangements extended to all employees rather than only those with caring responsibilities.
  • Employers able to opt out of bargaining for a multi-employer collective agreement.
  • Employers able to initiate bargaining at the same time as unions.
  •  "30 day rule" will be repealed, allowing more scope for employers to negotiate individual terms and conditions at the outset.  Employers must still advise employees of the existence of the collective agreement and provide contact details for the union.
  • Most strikes and lockouts to require advance written notice.
  • Employers able to make partial pay deductions where employees take partial strike action (say work to rule).
  • Good faith provisions amended to enable an employer to withhold confidential information where disclosing it will result in the unwarranted disclosure of a non-affected person's affairs.
  • Continuity of employment provisions under Part 6A expressly allow employers to negotiate the apportionment of service related entitlements.
  • Employment Relations Authority required to give an oral decision or indication at the end of an investigation meeting and written determinations within three months.