The Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2) 2010 and Holidays Amendment Bill 2010 were passed after their third and final reading in Parliament on 23 November 2010. The key changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) and the Holidays Act 2003 are outlined below.
On 1 April 2011, the following changes will come into force:
90-day Trial Period: The 90-day trial period for new employees will be extended to cover all employers, not only those with fewer than 20 employees. This means that for all new employees who agree to this, they will not have the ability to raise a personal grievance or other legal proceedings in respect of a dismissal within the first 90 days of employment.
Test of Justification for Dismissals: The test of justification for dismissal under section 103A of the ERA will be amended by replacing the word "would" with "could" so that the test will be whether the employer's actions, and how the employer acted, were what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal or action occurred. The Act will also set out the minimum requirements of a fair and reasonable process.
Reinstatement: Reinstatement will no longer be the "primary" remedy.
Union Access: Rules on union access to workplaces will change, so that any access will require the consent of the employer. That consent cannot be unreasonably withheld. An employer will have a limited time to respond to a union request for access to a workplace.
Communications: An employer will be able to communicate directly with employees during collective bargaining, provided such communications are consistent with the duty of good faith.
Annual Leave: Upon agreement between employer and employee, employees will be able to trade one of their four weeks' annual leave for cash.
Public Holidays: Employers and employees will be able to agree to transfer the observance of public holidays to another working day.
Average Daily Pay: A new formula of "Average Daily Pay" will be used to calculate leave entitlements.
Proof of Sickness or Injury: Employers will no longer need to have reasonable grounds to suspect that sick leave is not genuine before asking for proof of sickness within 3 consecutive days of absence. Employers will be required to cover the employee's costs in obtaining such medical reports.
On 1 July 2011, the following change will come into force:
Written Employment Agreements: An employer will be required to provide employees with a copy of a signed employment agreement, or where it has not been signed, an unsigned copy of that agreement. Where the parties have clearly not agreed on one or more of the terms and conditions of employment, an unsigned employment agreement will not comprise the employee's terms and conditions.