Health and safety

Extension of time for committee on Health and Safety Reform Bill

The deadline for report back by the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee of the Health and Safety Reform Bill has been moved from 30 March to 29 May.

Draft H&S general risk and workplace management regulations

These exposure regulations cover the obligations that the new Act will create for the PCBU (the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking). They include the requirement to eliminate risks and, if that is not possible, to minimise them by implementing engineering controls plus (if necessary) administrative controls, plus (if necessary) personal protective equipment.

All workplaces will be required to have an emergency plan. Submissions to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) are due by 15 May 2015.

Link: Draft regulations

Still to come

Three further exposure drafts are planned:

  • one due later this month (April) on infringement notices, offences and fees
  • one on worker participation, engagement and representation which will be posted to the MBIE website after the Bill has been reported back, and
  • one on hazardous substances which MBIE expects will be ready for release around November 2015.

Link: MBIE website

Guidance from WorkSafe

WorkSafe NZ will produce a comprehensive general guide to the new Act in advance of the Bill’s passage. It will also provide:

  • factsheets on key topics (e.g. the role of the PCBU and the duties of officers)
  • a code of practice on worker participation
  • a code of practice on the management and removal of asbestos
  • a guide to workplace risk management, and
  • guides for major hazard facilities and on the changes to the hazardous substances regime

Link: WorkSafe website

Employment law

ERA changes

Changes to the Employment Relations Act, legislated for in a Bill introduced in 2013 and passed last year, came into force on 6 March. Most relate to the rules around collective bargaining. The full list is available in the Chapman Tripp advisory linked to below.

Link: Chapman Tripp client advisory

Employment Standards Bill

The government will introduce legislation this year to strengthen the enforcement of minimum employment standards. The package will include tougher sanctions, clearer record-keeping requirements, more effective tools for labour inspectors and changes to the Employment Relations Authority’s approach.

Before the new law comes into effect, MBIE will develop an information strategy, including small businesses and workers.

Link: MBIE website

Zeroing in on zero hours contracts

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced the government’s intention to introduce legislation later this year to rule out the more “punitive” aspects of zero hours contracts, in particular:

  • cancelling shifts at short notice where employees may already be committed to arrangements such as for childcare, and
  • refusing to commit to a certain number of hours but preventing employees from working elsewhere.

Link: Radio New Zealand report

Minimum wage rise

The minimum wage is now $14.75 an hour, up from $14.25, and the starting out and training minimum rates are $11.80, up from $11.40. The changes came into effect on 1 April.

“Living wage” estimate

Campaigners for a ‘living wage’ capable of supporting a two parent, two child household have raised the figure from $18.80 an hour to $19.25 an hour – an increase of 2.5%. The 30 employers who have committed to meeting this standard have until 1 July to comply.

Paid parental leave

Paid parental leave increased from 14 weeks to 16 weeks on 1 April and will rise a further two weeks to 18 weeks on 1 April 2016.

Pressure on “hire NZ first” rule

The Labour Market Test which requires employers employing overseas persons to provide evidence that they had first attempted to recruit from within New Zealand has been waived in Queenstown. The waiver, which will run until June, does not apply to roles which WINZ has identified that it may be able to fill.

The measure is to assist Queenstown to meet a labour shortage in the burgeoning tourism industry.

In October 2013, the government allowed foreign students studying in New Zealand to work through all of their course breaks – not only over the long summer break. Post-grad students are able to work full-time during their study and English language students part-time. The moves were part of a package to stay competitive with Australia as an international education destination.

Court decisions

WorkSafe to prosecute MSD

WorkSafe is prosecuting the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) over the shooting at the MSD Ashburton office in September 2014 in which two staff were killed and another was injured.

The charge, under section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, alleges that MSD failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees at work. It was laid on 2 March 2015 after a WorkSafe investigation into the incident.

Link: WorkSafe statement

Rest home case

An application for leave to appeal by Terranova Homes and Care Ltd, the employer in the equal pay case taken by the Service Workers Union on behalf of an aged care worker, has been rejected by the Supreme Court.

The Court said the move was premature and that the Court of Appeal’s instruction that the matter be referred back to the Employment Court to develop an objective basis for wage comparison between male and female dominated industries should be followed.

Carer wins right to minimum wage

The Employment Court found that a relief care worker is a homeworker as defined in the Employment Relations Act and is thus an employee under that Act.

The case was brought by the Service Workers Union on behalf of Paraparaumu woman Jan Lowe. She had been paid either by the Ministry of Health or Capital & Coast Health Board, both of which argued that the payment was a subsidy rather than a wage and that there was no employment relationship as neither of them had any role in selecting relief carers. But the Court found that they were “in business” when discharging their responsibility to provide health and disability services, and that in the discharge of that duty they offered to pay carer support workers on certain terms and conditions.

Link: Decision

Industry training

Code of Good Practice for New Zealand Apprenticeships

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is consulting on draft Code of Good Practice for New Zealand Apprenticeships. The draft code sets out expectations for all parties to the apprenticeship relationship: the apprentice, the employer and the Industry Training Organisation.

Link: Draft code