Today is the 6th of May - are you ready?!  

If you are asking; “Ready for what?”, don’t panic; we’ve got you covered. Today is when many of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (Act) amendments come into force. This is a summary of what you need to know.

Two of the most significant amendments to the Act that come into force today are:

  • 90 day trial periods can now only be used for a new employee where the employer employs fewer than 20 employees at the beginning of the day on which the employment agreement is entered into. If you employ 20 or more employees we suggest replacing the trial period in your employment agreements with a probationary period from today.
  • From today, employees are entitled to legislatively prescribed rest and meal breaks. The Act now sets the duration of an employee’s breaks and, if agreement cannot be or is not reached between the parties, the Act also states that times at which the breaks are to be taken (with limited exceptions for workers in essential services or national security). The default provisions require the breaks to be around the middle of the relevant work period, if that is reasonable and practicable.

If you have a collective agreement in force you should also be aware of these amendments that come into force today:

  • If a new employee’s work is covered by the collective agreement, for the first 30 days of employment the employee’s terms and conditions will comprise the terms and conditions in the collective agreement. Any additional terms and conditions mutually agreed to by the employee and employer must be no less favourable to the employee than the terms and conditions in the collective agreement. During the first 10 days of the employee’s employment, the employer also needs to give the new employee a legislatively prescribed form, which advises them about their right to join the union.
  • A union party to a collective agreement may now request an employer party to pass on union information to prospective employees.
  • Employers must now provide reasonable paid time for union delegates undertaking union activities during the employees’ normal hours of work, with limited exceptions.
  • Collective agreements are now required to include the rates of wages or salary, minimum rates of wages or salary or one or more methods of calculating the rates or minimum rates of wages or salary payable for certain work or types of work or to certain employees or types of employees. The collective agreement must also indicate how the rate of wages or salary payable may increase during the term of the collective agreement.