The employment law changes

Kerre Woodham writes in the HoS how job trials offer a lucky break:

One of the best cameramen I know started off at TV3 working for nothing. As a young pup, he shared a poxy flat with five other trainees.

Terry was on a two week unpaid work experience. After that, he just stayed, still without a wage, and worked every hour God sent to scrape together enough money to survive while he learned the tools of the trade.

The company got an enthusiastic worker bee for nothing; the kid got the experience he needed to get him the first foothold on the ladder of a career that’s taken him all around the world and to the top of his game.

I suppose the unions would see it as exploitation but Terry was grateful for the opportunity and TV3 got a talented young camera assistant for nothing.

Surely a win/win situation. And isn’t that what the 90-day trial is all about? Workers being given an opportunity to show their worth to an employer who may be uneasy about taking on new staff?

And 40% of those hired with a trial period, would not have been hired if the trial period provision did not exist.

There are also those who are technically proficient at what they do but are monumental pains in the arse to work with and who can be terribly damaging to a small- or medium-sized business that requires its staff to work together co-operatively. If you can trial workers to see how they fit with the rest of the team, that must be a good thing.

Ask anyone who actually has been an employer, and “how they fit into the team” is a crucial element – and something that CVs and even interviews can not always ascertain.

And if they do not fit into the team, the cost can be horrific. Not only are they unproductive, but other staff become unproductive, and you sometimes even start losing your good staff.

Anyway what are the other changes announced by National.

The Employment Relations Authority will have the ability to filter out vexatious or frivolous claims early on.

This is common for almost all tribunals.

The Authority will promote mediation by giving priority to mediated cases.

Oh how evil, promoting mediated settlements.

Behaviour that delays the Authority will be penalised.

I suspect this will be called the Lynne Snowden clause. Her battle with Radio NZ is still ongoing five years later!

Employers’ processes will not be the subject of pedantic

This one is pretty damn important. Unless you are a large corporate with in house lawyers and HR teams, you are unlikely to get he process perfect. The process should always be fair, but too often an employer dismisses an employee for exceptionally good reasons, but the employee gets a few thousand on the way out for minor procedural issues.

Having said that, one needs to be careful not to encourage employers to be lax about following a fair process, and the exact details of any law change will be crucial.

The Authority will be moving to a more judicial mode of operation, with the right to cross-examine witnesses.

My translation of this is that too many witnesses are lying and getting away with it.

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.

I predict that this will be no big deal, despite the loud noise. All it is doing is saying a union should be polite enough not to turn up unannounced when entering private property. Like anyone else they make an appointment, so they may have to ring up and say we plan to come in tomorrow at 10 am to talk about “x”, and the employer will say yeah no probs unless it clashes with something else (maybe they have an important meeting of their own, or are on a deadline and the following day will be much easier).

Employees will be able to trade one of their four weeks’ annual leave for cash. This is only at the employee’s request and cannot be raised in salary negotiations.

Also election policy, and will be welcomed by many employees who will appreciate having a choice.

Holiday pay calculating entitlements will be simpler for employees who have variable hours and pay, using our new calculation known as “Average Daily Pay”. It’s based on the average of an employee’s pay over the past year.

Seems fair to me. Over a year, it should avoid the problem of calculating it just on a previous pay period, when hours may have been very low or high.

Employers and employees will be able to agree to transfer the observance of public holidays to another working day.

Not sure what problem this is solving, but generally flexibility is a good thing.

Maximum penalties will double for employers who don’t comply with the .

Good. Bad employers are the reasons unions push for labour laws that punish all employers. I’m all in favour of tougher penalties for employers who knowingly deprive their employees of their holiday rights.

Employers will be able to ask for proof of sickness or injury within three consecutive days of an employee taking sick leave – but they’ll have to cover the employee’s costs in obtaining proof.

I understand the sentiment behind this one, but am worried about practicality. If you wake up with a temperature, you often don’t go and see a doctor if it passes within a day. Same with food poisoning. So if an employer then requires you to see a doctor, there may be nothing to see by then.

Will be a good area for the select committee to consider how practical it is. The intent (less fake sickies) is good, but one can go overboard in this area.

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