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Employment law pānui

As of 1 April 2019 employers need to be aware of several changes to minimum employment standards.

Minimum wage

The minimum wage will increase to $17.70.  Employers can expect to see further rises in the minimum wage rates following the Government’s commitment to increasing the minimum wage to $20 by 2021. 

Training and starting-out minimum wage rates have increased to $14.16 per hour, but can only be used in specific situations based on an employee’s age and whether they have worked six continuous months with the employer. 

Domestic violence leave

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill will come into effect creating a new form of leave for employees affected by domestice violence and the ability to negotiate flexible working arrangements.

Employees affected by domestic violence will be entitled to up to 10 days of paid leave per year.  Entitlement will arise and the leave can be taken similar to the existing sick and bereavement leave provisions.

Employees affected by domestic leave will be able to request short-term variations to their working arrangements, for example hours of work, location and/or duties.  Employers will be required to respond urgently to the request (within 10 working days) and are allowed to ask for proof the employee is affected by domestic violence (though we envisage this will be a tricky area to navigate given the sensitivity of the issues). 

An employer will only be entitled to refuse the request if the employee fails to provide the proof on request, or if the request cannot be reasonably accommodated.  A non-exhaustive list of reasons the request cannot be accommodated is set out in the legislation which includes the employer’s inability to reorganise work among existing staff or to recruit additional staff, the change having detrimental impacts of quality and performance of work, or the cost being too burdensome on the employer.

More changes to come in May

From 6 May 2019 more changes will come into effect, including:

  • Changes to the 90 day trial periods and who can use them.
  • The ability to have set rest and meal breaks will be restored.
  • Employer obligations will increase in respect of Collective Employment Agreements and how they employ new staff.
  • Employers will be required to allow union representatives reasonable time to perform their union duties and pay them on the same as their ordinary working rate.

These changes will impact on and affect the way employers are operating their business.  This serves as a timely reminder for employers to check their employment agreements are up to date as a good starting point to accommodate these changes.

If you would like further information please contact Renika Siciliano on 07 958 7429.

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