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Recently there have been significant changes to the employment legislation in New Zealand. These are likely to directly impact you as an employer. Please find below an overview of these recent changes and how they are likely to affect your business.

Changes to the Holidays Act 2003

1. Matariki Public Holiday

The Government has confirmed Matariki will become a new public holiday. It will be observed on the 24th June 2022 for the first time, thereafter the timing of the holiday will shift each year to align with the Māori lunar calendar. In order to determine the date of the holiday each year, a Matariki Advisory Group has been set up. The Group has already set the date of the holiday for the next 30 years and it always occurs on a Friday during this period.
Employment agreements should be updated to reflect these changes. Shop trading hours will not be affected, but businesses that operate during non-standard hours should pay extra caution. Please let us know if you would like us to update your employment agreements for you or to draft a standard variation.

2. Increase of sick leave entitlement

Prior to this change, employees were entitled to 5 days of sick leave each year. From the 24th of July 2021 employees are now entitled to 10 days sick leave a year. New employees will be entitled to 10 days leave on their 6 month anniversary of employment. Current employees will receive the 5 extra days of leave on the 12 month anniversary of their leave entitlement date. The maximum amount of bankable sick leave remains at 20 days.

Example: Jenny has been working at the Chemist for 2 years. Her contract provides for 5 sick days a year; under the new rules her sick days per year will increase from her next anniversary of sick leave entitlement which is 1st September 2021. If she is sick in August she can use accrued sick leave of up to 20 days; but if she only had this year’s sick leave entitlement she would have 5 days; whilst if she was sick in October it would be 10.

These are changes to the minimum requirements an employer must provide, therefore employers can be penalised under the Act if they fail to fulfil these requirements. It is essential to update employment agreements and payroll to reflect these changes.

3. Extension of bereavement leave entitlement

An employee’s entitlement to request bereavement leave has been extended for circumstances involving miscarriage and stillbirth. Employees can use 3 or more days of bereavement leave if they or their partner have a stillbirth or miscarriage, or if they or their partner was to be the primary carer and have permanent primary responsibility for the upbringing of the child. The leave does not have to be taken straight away or consecutively, nor does the employee have to produce any proof of pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth to the employer.

Other legislative changes that may impact your business

1. Immigration Accredited Employer change

On the 1st of November 2021, a new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will take effect. This will reform the current 6 visa system with a single visa system. Employers who intend to hire migrants on AEWVs must fulfil the accreditation requirements. There are two levels of accreditation the employer can acquire: standard accreditation – if you hire up to 5 migrant workers at one time; or high volume accreditation – if you hire 6 or more migrant workers at one time.
From late September employers can apply for accreditation. The application process is employer-led, meaning the employer is responsible for ensuring and demonstrating that their businesses employment structure meets the Immigration New Zealand standards. Franchisees and employers placing migrant workers with third parties are required to meet further criteria. For more information please see the Immigration New Zealand Factsheet:
https://www.immigration.govt.nz/documents/employer-resources/accredited-employer- work-visa-factsheet-standard-and-high-volume-accreditation.pdf

2. Privacy Act 2020

Privacy Act reforms have introduced a new reporting system for ‘notifiable breaches’. Businesses and organisations are now required to notify the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and any affected individuals if a privacy breach has occurred that is likely to cause serious harm. Compliance notices and penalties may be imposed if there is a failure to report such notifiable breaches. A workplace privacy policy can be used to implement this change.

Proposed legislative changes

1. Accruing sick leave from the beginning of employment

The Government has indicated it is likely to amend the Holidays Act 2003 to allow for sick leave to begin accruing from the employee’s first day of employment. This would be a change from the current position in which sick leave accrual begins only after the employee has been working for 6 months. Allowing for access to annual leave from the commencement of employment for new employees is also under consideration. This proposed change is at an early stage as there has been no draft legislation released.

2. Fair pay agreements

A new Fair Pay Agreement system has been announced by the Government. This will implement Fair Pay Agreements and introduce new minimum terms and conditions of employment by bringing together multiple employers/unions within a sector to support collective bargaining. The industries and sectors that will be subject to this new system are yet to be confirmed by the Government. A draft bill is being released for consultation later in 2021 and will be open to submissions. See the proposed system in the following link:
https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/14294-the-proposed-fair-pay-agreement-system- pdf

Covid-19

As the Covid-19 vaccination is now becoming available to the public, workplaces should consider how they are going to balance their employees right to refuse the Covid-19 vaccination with the health and safety needs of the business. A vaccination policy can be implemented if it is reasonable in the role to make vaccination compulsory. It is important to remember a person’s vaccination status is personal information, therefore collecting and sharing information about this must comply with the Privacy Act 2020.

Maintaining compliance with employment law changes

It is important to keep your businesses employment agreements current with the law reforms to maintain compliance. Workplace policies can be used as a simplified way to implement these changes in some circumstances.

Please get in touch with the Wesley Jones Law team if you have any further questions or if you would like assistance in implementing these changes into your business.

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