The proposed 2018 employment changes. Turning the clock back.

by John Shingleton - Director, Shingleton Lawyers Limited LL.B, LL.M France (1989)

In a recent 20-minute presentation to NZBI, member and employment lawyer John Shingleton set out to deconstruct the 2018 Labour-led employment law reforms.

John started the presentation with a “j ’accuse” moment, sharing what he called a growing view amongst employers and commentators that the reforms were a form of Union payback and a not so subtle unravelling of the National Government’s reforms.

He said that if the law proceeds without any changes, only employers with less than 20 employees will be allowed the 90-day trial period. This means that employers with more than 20 employees will only be allowed to use the existing probationary arrangement, which John described as “a dog of a regime”. He also said that employment lawyers will have a field day.

John said he believed that we risk seeing people on the fringes, who might have been given a chance at employment under a 90 -day trial period, being left out of the workplace. He cited two examples of employers who had purposefully employed ex-convicts to give them a new chance at life, but only because they had the protection of the 90 day trial period, if things went South.

John then turned to the increases in the minimum wage and argued that young people and school leavers could also be left out of the workplace, if the increase aligned the minimum wage with what people with two or three years work experience earn already. He asked why an employer would hire a school leaver if they must pay the same wage to some one with more experience.

The next item on the agenda was the proposal to introduce fair pay agreements. John described this as an opportunity for the Unions to cherry pick.

John suggested that the primary remedy for future PGs will be reinstatement, rather than compensation. He said this could lead to higher payments to settle grievances due to employers wanting to avoid the risk that a toxic employee could win on a technicality and be reinstated in the very workplace in which they caused havoc. John also described some of the potential financial ramifications of compulsory redundancy payments for owners of SMEs.

John did, however, commend the proposal to increase the scope and focus on minimum standards. He talked about too many migrant employers failing to ensure their migrant employees were treated fairly and that some were not being paid the minimum wage. Also, foreigners working in NZ for non-NZ companies based here, would be entitled to minimum standards.

John’s take away message was to keep an eye out for what may be discussed at select committee level.

 

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