Employee Relations Amendment Act 2018, if you are an employer with no union members, collective agreements, or vulnerable employees, you only need to focus on policies regarding reinstatement, rest and meal breaks, and 90-day trial periods.
THIS ACT INVOLVES TWO STAGES OF CHANGE:
EFFECTIVE DATE: 12 DECEMBER 2018
Reinstatement of an employee will be the first course of action considered if an unjustified dismissal dispute is ruled in the employee’s favour. This does not work retrospectively.
The Act expands rights for unions and changes the requirements for collective agreements.
- Union representatives will no longer need consent from an employer to enter a workplace, provided:
- they are respectful of normal operating hours
- they follow health, safety, and security procedures
- the employees are covered under or working towards a collective agreement.
- Union members have extended protection against discrimination on the basis of their union membership status; employer behaviour can be seen as discriminatory within 18 months of an employee undertaking union activities (extended by 6 months).
- Unions can initiate collective bargaining 60 days prior to the expiration of an existing collective agreement (20 days earlier than the employer).
- Businesses are now bound to enter bargaining for multi-employer agreements unless they have reasonable grounds not to do so.
- Pay deductions can no longer be made for partial strikes.
• The Act extends the definition of ‘vulnerable employee’; this affects mainly cleaning and catering industries.
EFFECTIVE DATE: 6 MAY 2019
• Rest and meal breaks have been prescribed back into the Act. These breaks must be provided and are specifically defined. For instance, in an 8-hour workday an employee is entitled to two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break, and a 4-hour workday includes one 10-minute rest break. Employers must pay for rest breaks. Limited exemptions apply for specified essential services and national security services.
• 90-day trial periods are abolished for businesses with more than 20 employees. If necessary, employers can revert to using a ‘probationary period’ agreement that lays out a process for managing performance issues and ending employment if the issues aren’t resolved.
• ‘Vulnerable employees’ are now able to transfer to a new employer on the existing terms of their employment agreement if their work is restructured. The notice period for this transfer is 10 working days.
• Collective agreement requirements have been expanded: a) An employer and a union engaged in collective bargaining are bound to conclude the agreement unless there are reasonable grounds not to do so. b) Collective agreements must address pay rates and indicate how the rate of wages and salary may increase over the term of the agreement. c) For the first 30 days, new employees are automatically employed on the terms and conditions of collective agreements.
f) Employers need to provide employees with an approved ‘active choice’ union form within the first 10 days of employment and return it to the applicable union (unless the employee objects). g) Employers need to, within reason, allow for paid time for union delegates to undertake union activities. Delegates must notify their employer of this time in advance. h) Employers must pass on information about the role and function of unions to prospective employees.
WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO DO:
• Update employment agreements with:
a) Removal of references to the 90-day trial period (if more than 20 employees)
b) Probationary period requirements and frameworks
c) Hours of work policy clarifying rest and meal breaks (ensuring processes are in place that allocate these breaks)
d) Policy reflecting updated union-related requirements (if applicable).
• Update staff on the new workplace policy changes through the appropriate channels, maybe meetings, newsletters or similar