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Changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 - part II

Published 01 Dec 2014

Last month we discussed flexible work arrangements, rest and meal breaks and continuity of employment. Today we discuss the remaining three changes to the Employment Relations Art 2000.

Good faith

This change amends the good faith provisions that require an employer to give an employee relevant information where they are proposing to make a decision that will, or is likely to, have an adverse effect on the continuation of that employee’s employment. It aims to clarify what information employees are entitled to during restructures or other situations where their continued employment is at risk.
An employer must give the affected employee relevant confidential information about themselves. An employer does not have to give the affected employee confidential information about another employee if doing so would involve an unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of that person.
An employer does not have to give confidential information that legally must stay confidential, or where there is a good reason to keep the information confidential.
These changes do not affect an employer’s obligations under the Official Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act 1993.
Further, in employee to employee conflict situations the employee accused of the misconduct should know the identity of their accuser or the nature of allegations made against them unless there is good reason to keep this information confidential.

Collective bargaining

The changes to collective bargaining aim to increase choice and flexibility in the collective bargaining framework, reduce ineffective bargaining, and improve fairness and balance in bargaining requirements. The key changes are:

  • providing that the duty of good faith does not require parties to reach a collective agreement. Parties will be able to ask the Authority to declare that bargaining has ended
  • allowing employers to opt out of multi-employer bargaining from the start
  • removing the 30-day rule that gives non-union members who are new employees, the terms and conditions from the collective agreement
  • allowing proportionate pay reductions as a response to partial strikes
  • requiring advanced written notice of any proposed strikes and lockouts in all sectors.

Employment Relations Authority

The Act introduces requirements for when and how the Authority must give determinations. At an investigation meeting’s conclusion, the Authority must (where practical):

  • give an oral determination, and a written record of that determination within 1 month, or
  • give an oral indication of the Authority’s preliminary findings to the parties (unless extra evidence is provided) and deliver a written determination within 3 months of the investigation meeting or when extra evidence is provided, whichever is later.

The Authority can only reserve its determination if there are good reasons why it is not practical to give either an oral determination or indication of preliminary findings. A reserved determination must be delivered within 3 months of either the investigation meeting or any extra evidence being provided, whichever is later.
The Authority can also decide matters without holding an investigation meeting. In these situations, the Authority must give a written determination within 3 months of receiving evidence from the parties.
The Chief of the Authority can extend these timeframes, if they are satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances.

This concludes the upcoming changes with the Government citing "Flexible and balanced employment relations legislation is essential for business to grow while ensuring protections for workers are retained"

The Act has now received Royal assent and will come into force on 6 March 2015.