Recent Employment Law Changes

April was quite a month for employers to sit up and take note – the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and its supporting regulations 2016 took effect on 4 April. Just a few days earlier, the Employment Standards Bill came into effect (1 April 2016) requiring employers to update themselves on new employment legislation requirements.

A brief summary of key changes included:

Hours of work – Zero hour contracts not enforceable
The new law requires that if employers agree hours of work with their employees, they must be specified in an employee’s employment agreement.

This does not mean there can’t be flexible hours of work, but the employment agreement must include any agreed hours. If no hours of work are agreed, the employment agreement must still contain an indication of the arrangements relating to the times an employee is to work.

Availability provisions - An employer can only require an employee to be available for work over and above the guaranteed hours if there is an availability provision in the employment agreement.

An employer must have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for including an availability provision and provide for ‘reasonable compensation’ to the employee for being available. An employer may agree with an employee that the salary or hourly rate includes reasonable compensation for making themselves available.

If an employer does not have an availability provision that complies with the requirements above, it can not require an employee to work beyond the guaranteed hours.

The new requirements do not apply to casual employees who have no guaranteed hours - and can turn the work down when offered.

Effectively, if an employer requires someone to be available to work when they need them, they must guarantee a minimum number of hours of work per week.

Secondary employment provisions - Employers must have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds to restrict an employee’s ability to work a second job. The reason must be set out in the employee’s employment agreement, eg protecting the employer’s commercially sensitive information, or where an employer is concerned that the employee’s secondary job (work hours) may pose a health and safety risk through fatigue.

The new rules apply to new employment agreements entered into after 1 April 2016. Existing agreements will need to be amended by 1 April 2017.

Cancellation of shifts – if your employees undertake “shifts”, then you will no longer be able to cancel their shifts without providing reasonable notice of cancellation. The period of notice must be set out in the employment agreement and will depend on a number of factors relevant to your business and industry. If your employment agreement does not comply and you cancel the shift, then the employee can claim payment for what they would have earned for working that shift.

The Minimum wage for adults increased to S15.25 per hour, and paid parental leave increased from 16 weeks to 18 weeks also on 1 April 2016, with the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 bringing other changes for affected employees to be aware of.

Deductions from wages from an employee’s final pay and/or holiday pay requires consultation - even if there is a general wage deduction clause in an employment agreement. The deductions can not be made if they are unreasonable.

There are new requirements around keeping Wages/Time Records - including that the information can be easily accessed and/or converted into a written form. Additional hours worked by salaried employees should also be recorded to comply with the requirement of recording minimum entitlements.

It could well be time to review your existing, and new, employment agreements and HR practices.

Paddy Battersby, Battersby HR Consulting,, Phone 09 838 6338

09 May 2016
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