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Monday, July 19

90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

The 90-day trial period is to be extended to enable all employers and new employees to have the chance to benefit from it, says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.

The extension is among planned changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 that Prime Minister John Key announced today in a speech to the National Party Conference.

"The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families," says Ms Wilkinson.

"There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff."

Ms Wilkinson says a Department of Labour evaluation of the trial period showed it had been beneficial for both employers and employees.

"The evaluation showed that 40 percent of employers who had hired someone on a trial period said it was unlikely they would have taken on new employees without it.

"Trial periods were introduced to encourage employers to take on new staff and I'm pleased to see this is occurring.

"It's also great to see that by far the majority - at least 74 percent - of people employed on a trial period have maintained their employment. It's clear this law is a win-win for employers and employees. Extending it will give all employers and potential employees the chance to benefit from it."

Further changes to the Employment Relations Act include:

  • Promoting mediation by providing that the Employment Relations Authority gives priority to mediated cases;
  • Developing a Code of Professional Conduct for employment representatives;
  • Enabling Authority members to throw out frivolous or vexatious cases at an early stage;
  • Allowing Authority members to award penalties against parties who fail to attend investigation meetings without good cause; and
  • Modifying the test of justification in s103A of the Act.

Rules on union access to workplaces will also change so any access will require the consent of the employer - but consent may not be unreasonably withheld.

"The Government is committed to an employment relations system that helps employers and employees resolve disputes quickly and inexpensively," says Ms Wilkinson.

"While the current system generally works well, it can prove time-consuming and costly. The changes announced today will reduce costs by providing a more efficient system while maintaining fairness.

"The Act Party has taken a close interest in these changes and I want to thank them for their valuable input." 

A Bill amending the Employment Relations Act 2000 is being drafted for introduction this year.