The Employment Relations Act 2000 governs the relationship between employer and employee. The Labour government sought last year to make changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 through the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018. These changes were passed and came into effect on 6 May 2019. Have you implemented these changes in your workplace?

New Zealand Parliament stated that the purpose of these amendments is to restore key minimum standards and protections for employees, and to implement changes to promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace. The changes to the Employment Relations Act are intended to introduce greater fairness in the workplace between employers and employees, in order to promote productive employment relationships.

Here are some of the key changes that both employers and employees need to be made aware of.

Trial Period

Employers with 20 or more employees are no longer able to include ‘trial periods ‘in their employment agreements. Trial periods for 90 days or less can be included in employment agreement for employers who have fewer than 20 employees.

This means that employers with more than 20 employees have lost their right to include trial periods in their employment agreements. Therefore, employers that employee more than 20 employees will always need to provide a fair and reasonable reason for dismissal to all employees. The trial period change also means that employees will be able to challenge their dismissal.

With this change, it is likely that larger business will become more conservative about hiring new employees and will spend more time conducting due diligence on potential new employees to ensure that they are the right fit for their business.

Meal and Rest breaks

Employees have the right to guaranteed meal and rest breaks, these breaks will consist of at least one 10-minute paid rest break and one 30-minute meal break, based on the number of hours worked

In most cases the employer and employee will be able to agree on the times that employees are able to take their breaks. However, if the employer and employee cannot reach an agreement, the law will require the breaks to be taken at times as specified in the Act, so long as it’s reasonable and practical.

Reinstatement for unfairly dismissed employees

If an employee has been found to be unfairly dismissed, then their previous role or position can be reinstated. The first step for the Employment Relations Authority will be to assess if practical or reasonable for both parties.

Collective Bargaining

Changes have been made to collective bargaining which are designed to promote and strengthen this process.

There is an obligation to conclude a collective agreement unless there is a genuine reason to continue negotiation. Collective agreements are now also required to include pay rates.

Employers will be required to pass on information about the existence of Unions to prospective employees.

Employers can no longer opt out of bargaining for multi-employer collective agreement.

Unions can now initiate bargaining 20 day ahead of employers- when collective agreement already in force and before it expires.

New employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement for the first 30 days. The two parties may agree to more favourable terms than the collective.

Employers can no longer deduct pay for partial strikes, such as wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms (low level industrial disputes). Employers can still respond to partial strike action the same way as any other strike.

Union representatives can enter workplaces without consent, provided they are covered under or bargaining towards a collective agreement. Still need consent where no collective agreement or bargaining exists.

Pay rates must be included in collective agreements.

Employers must provide a form within the first 10 days of employment, to be completed and returned to the applicable union(s), unless the employee objects. Employers must pass on information about the role and function of unions to prospective employees.

Vulnerable industry employees

Employees are now able to transfer their current contract terms and conditions, regardless of the size of their employer, if they work in a specified vulnerable industry.

New categories of employees may now apply to receive the protections under those ‘vulnerable workers.

Domestic Violence Leave

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018 (The Victim Protection Act) amended the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Holidays Act 2003 and the Human Rights Act 1993 with the intent to provide greater protection and appropriate entitlements to victims of domestic violence.

These changes saw the introduction of paid domestic family violence leave (up to 10 days’ leave annually), the introduction of short-term flexible working arrangements from employees who are victims of domestic/family violence, and, amending the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 2003 to make it unlawful to treat employees who are victims of domestic/family violence adversely.

If you’re unsure as to whether your workplace adheres to these new changes, please do not hesitate to contact one of the iCLAW team members today and we will happily discuss the above changes with you. Contact us via phone on 07 929 4300, email at or check out our contact page at