Employment Relations Act (ERA) Amendments

ERA Amendments – this legislation is now law – some parts are immediately effective – others not till 6 May 2019.  Most affect only those with a Union presence (Collective Agreement) but some affect everyone.  The following is a brief summary – please contact us if you want practical help understanding or dealing with any of this.

Impact on All Employers:

  • Effective Immediately
    • If one of your employees calls in a Union representative to help them with a H&S issue, you must let the Union rep on site.
  • Effective 6 May
    • 90-day Trial Periods may only be included in an Employment Agreement if you have less than 20 employees on the morning of the day the Employment Agreement is entered into (signed).
    • Breaks must be provided as follows:
      • For a shift 2-4 hours long – one rest break
      • For a shift 4-6 hours long – one rest and one meal break
      • For a shift 6-10 hours long – two rest and one meal break
      • For a shift 10-12 hours long – three rest and one meal break
      • For a shift 12-14 hours long – three rest and two meal breaks
      • For a shift 14-16 hours long – four rest and two meal breaks
    • You cannot contract out of the number of breaks (unless you are an essential service or involved in national security).  However, you are allowed to agree at what times within the work period these breaks are to be taken. I suspect that agreeing to take them at the end of the work period might be considered not to have provided a break – though the legislation does not appear to state this.
    • The Minister may add to the categories of workers that are considered to be vulnerable workers in terms of protection through restructuring and SME exemptions have been removed.

Impact on Employers with a Union Presence

  • Effective Immediately
    • The rights of Union reps to access the workplace have increased
    • A Union may now initiate bargaining for a Collective 30 days earlier than an Employer may
    • You may now not deduct partial pay for a partial strike
    • You may no longer choose to opt out of a Collective Agreement – what will happen is that you will have to argue at the time of negotiation of a Collective that you have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds, not to enter into one.  This will no doubt be challenging, but if an Early Childhood Education Centre wants not to be covered by the MECA, they may have to show (for example) that involvement in it would make them financially unsustainable.
  • Effective on 6 May
    • Union delegates will need to be given paid time to represent employees who are union members
    • You will only be able not to agree to a Collective Agreement if you have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds (note no definition of what these may be)
    • Negotiations for any Collective must continue even if you have reached deadlock over one particular issue
    • Collective Agreements will need to include disclosure of rates of pay, or minimum rates of pay for jobs covered by the Collective, plus indicate how they may be increased during the term of the Collective
    • Unions can provide information that Employers must pass onto prospective employees – the Employer will have 15 working days to respond if this is unreasonable (for various reasons set out in law)
    • New Employee information must be passed onto the Union unless the employee has objected to this using the legal form
    • For the first 30 days of a non-union member’s employment working in a role covered by a Collective, they must be employed on the same terms as the Collective plus anything that is no less beneficial and cannot have terms that will automatically take effect from 30 days that would be less beneficial

Effective on 11 June 2019: Broadening of discrimination in relation to Unions – to include membership as well as involvement.

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