The proposed changes are more extensive than just changes to "vulnerable workers" provisions.

Last week, Cabinet approved changes to the Act. A new Bill capturing these proposed amendments and changes announced earlier in the year is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year (select committee process to follow). The Bill is expected to become law later next year.

While the media's focus has been on the proposed amendments to Part 6A (which deals with continuity of employment for "vulnerable" employees in specific industries), the Government also wants to change provisions of the Act relating to collective bargaining, flexible working arrangements and the provision of information to employees. These amendments are likely to be more far-reaching and of more significance to most employers than the changes to Part 6A.

The key proposed changes include:

Collective Bargaining

  • a return to the position where the duty of good faith does not require parties to conclude a collective agreement;
  • repealing the 30-day rule requiring new employees, whose work is covered by a collective agreement but who are not union members, to be covered by the collective agreement;
  • allowing an employer to opt out of multi-employer bargaining;
  • requiring unions to give advanced notice of any strike action;
  • allowing employers to make proportionate pay reductions in response to partial strikes;
  • having the same timeframe for initiation of bargaining for employers and unions (60 days);

Flexible Working Arrangements

  • extending the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees, not just those with caring responsibilities;
  • removing the requirement for 6 months' service to make a request;
  • removing the limit on the number of requests made in a 12 month period; and
  • requiring employers to consider a request no later than one month.

Good faith provisions following Massey University case

  • amending the duty of good faith so employers are not required to provide an employee with access to confidential personal information about another person, or evaluative material about the employee concerned, in a restructure situation.