Business leaders are whinging about employment law changes – what does that mean for workers? Welcome to our new YWRC column ‘Tony’s Bants… A column series where YWRC Business Manager Tony Stevens will vent his spleen on a current employment-related issue.


Changes to your employment rights are coming and the NZ business community is not happy about it.

The government plans to restore workers’ right to a tea break, scrap the nastiest parts of the 90 day trial, and give some power back to unions.

Unsurprisingly Business NZ is throwing a tanty, raving about the apocalyptic future of fire and brimstone we can look forward to if these changes go ahead. This is a classic clash of ideologies where the government wants to give more power to working people and businesses hate ceding any control whatsoever. So if business leaders are vehemently against the changes what do they mean for workers like you?

Firstly 90 day trials will be all but gone. No longer will an employer be able to fire you at will within the first three months without first giving you a reason AND you WILL be able to challenge the reason legally if you think it is unjustified. Previously employers could kick to the curb with no reason given, no feedback, and not a damn thing you could do if it was unfair.

But wait there’s more. Only businesses who employ twenty or fewer workers can use the new, improved trial period. Big corporations will just have to rely on robust hiring processes – the horror.

Fans of the trial are bleating that young people won’t get jobs anymore because employers won’t want to take the chance on them without the ability to sack them on the spot if they are rubbish. I’m sorry but this is rubbish. There is zero evidence to suggest the trial period has increased youth employment as promised. It is simply a mean-spirited piece of legislation that enables lazy employers to exploit workers. Good riddance.

Next up – your breaks are back. We’ll they never really left, but we did lose our automatic entitlement to tea breaks in favour of employers having the flexibility to deny breaks if they had a decent reason. It was a silly non-effectual change in the first instance and I doubt many employers even made use of it.

Thirdly, laws which made it harder for unions to support working people are being scrapped. It’s a bit hard for the general public to get their heads around the changes without having a good understanding of collective bargaining processes (I know big words). Basically when negotiating around pay and conditions unions and employers will HAVE to reach agreement, whereas before employers could walk away from negotiations without reaching an outcome. Union people will be allowed to access work sites whenever they want to recruit, provided they follow health and safety guidelines. New workers will enjoy the benefits of superior union contracts for a month before they have to choose either an individual contract or the union “collective agreement”. And the shiny new toy is fair pay agreements that unions will be able to negotiate to cover workers across an entire industries, ensuring there is a standard of wages that covers all workers in a specific field.

We’ve had years of prioritising employer ‘flexibility’ but it’s working people who are the key to any successful business. It’s time we put them at the heart of employment relations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *