Changes to employment law 

There will be some significant changes to employment law from 6 March 2015. These changes mainly affect employees’ and employer’s rights relating to flexible working arrangements, meal and rest breaks and collective bargaining. We outline these changes (contained in the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014) below.

Meal and rest breaks

  • Employers and employees will be able to negotiate whether and when employees will get rest and meal breaks.
  • If they can’t agree and the employer has business reasons to restrict breaks (for example where an employee has sole charge in a retail outlet), the employer can specify whether and when the employee can take breaks.
  • Employees must be reasonably compensated if they cannot be given rest breaks. 
  • Rest breaks must be paid.

Flexible working arrangements

  • All employees will have the right to request flexible working arrangements 
  • There is no limit to how many requests an employee can make per year. 
  • The employer must respond to each request within one month.

Collective bargaining and industrial action

  • When collective bargaining is taking place, either party (employer or workers) can walk away from negotiations. 
  • Employers can opt out of multi-employer bargaining (i.e. where there are a number of employers in an industry, and some or all of them enter negotiations as a group).
  • Employers can offer individual employment agreements to new employees, whose work is covered by a collective agreement but who are not union members, from the outset of the relationship (rather than waiting 30 days).
  • An employer can dock the pay of employees who are on partial strike (e.g. work to rule, go slow).
  • Written advance notice will have to be given of any proposed strike or lockout.

You can find out more about the changes on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.