The new Labour-led Government has softened its position on controversial trial periods.Trial periods were first introduced into New Zealand by National in 2009, giving employers a chance to trial new employees and carry out dismissals for good reason, without inheriting the risk of a personal grievance proceeding within the first 90 calendar days.
Labour announced as part of its 2017 election campaign, that they would replace the relevant legislation to ensure changes were made to the way these trial periods were controlled. They initially said they would introduce an authoritative body who would undertake small hearings. This referee service would come at a cost of $4m to the New Zealand Government and listen to claims such as unfair dismissal, with the power to award and reinstate for damages.
Labour however announced recently, following negotiations with NZ First, there have been changes made to the campaign promises set out by them and will be a roll back on initial measures that were originally proposed. In addition Hon Iain Lees-Galloway who is the current Workplace Relations Minister, has added that “it will no longer be the case” that a referee service will be set up for employees to challenge dismissals.
Trial periods will carry a high threshold and only be available to businesses with less than 20 employees. Labour believes this will create a better outcome than that of removing these trial periods altogether. Although the 90-day trial periods will only be available to those employers with fewer than 20 staff, employers will still be able to use probationary periods.
The Bill with the proposed changes will be announced shortly and will have its first reading on 3 February 2018. The new employment reforms will also provide the following aims;
- to strengthen collective bargaining,
- encourage joining a union,
- restore balance in the workplace
- lift wages,
- make exceptions to work breaks and guarantee certainty of these breaks where practicable,
- guarantee pay conditions
- return reinstatement as the primary remedy,
- provide discrimination protection, and
- deliver equal conditions for new workers within a collective agreement.
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