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GUARDIAN FARMING

Proposed changes to employment law Rob Stevenson, Teamwork (SI) Limited

The Prime Minster, John Key has announced several changes to New Zealand’s employment laws; for the most part they have been expected. An extension to the 90-day trial period was anticipated although not to the extent of being available to all employers. I see this as a good move and the change will not disadvantage good employees employed by highquality employers. My views are: 1/ this is a tool intended to minimise the effect of an undesirable appointment, not to allow employers to remedy careless recruitment practices. 2/ I encourage applicants’ to ask for referees and research their prospective employers. 3/ if this tool is not used wisely, it will surely be removed or revised at some future time. 4/ employers who abuse this tool should be exposed and expect no support from fellow employers. Giving the Employment Relations Authority the ability to filter out ‘vexatious or frivolous’ claims and ‘delaying behaviour’ is a worthy objective. However it is easier said than done to make a system more robust and swift at the same time. I truly hope the Government can achieve both. Changes to the Holidays Act include the move from ‘relevant daily pay’ to a new calculation known as ‘average daily pay’. This will be based on an average of their pay over the past year. Workers will be allowed to request a trade of up to one week of their annual holiday entitlement for cash. This had been signalled some time ago and will be welcomed by many. I have had many queries surrounding this practice,

most often coming from an employee. I am happy that the cashing-in leave entitlements will only be at the employee’s request and cannot be raised in salary negotiations. There is a signal of allowing the transfer of Public Holidays. I will be pleased to see this issue tidied up after many years of litigation around the treatment of Public Holidays. The law in its current interpretation is clear around entitlement and payment but provides little flexibility. Nick Smith has signalled changes to ACC with discounts for employers with low/no claims and penalties for workplaces with higher rates of claim. AWellington coroner has called for legislation around the safe use of ATVs. I am unaware what effect legislation exists in the Health and Safety in Employment these changes will have Act. I do however acknowledge these provisions are often on the Agricultural Workplace Safety Discount. I still enforced only after a tragic event and does not cover encourage farmers to seek this discount. Many of my private or recreational use. clients have obtained this discount with little effort (other than being responsible employers). We should strive to have a safer workplace for the simple fact that over the last 10 years, on average, at least one Health and safety is never far from the news, with a person per week died in work related accidents. During Wellington coroner calling for legislation around the 2009 one in four of those deaths was a farmer. safe use of ATVs. Inside the workplace I believe sufficient

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