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New Year, New Rules: How Employment Law Changes Will Affect You

January 23rd, 2024 - Barbara Buckett

Buckettlaw is back and ready for 2024; its challenges and opportunities.

We trust that you all had a restful break and are ready and energized to take on everything 2024 may bring.

Certainly, we have already seen changes in the employment law landscape and there are more the new government has signaled will come. These changes include 90-day trial periods extended to include all employers, new requirements for employers under the Worker Protection Act and the repeal of Fair Pay Agreements legislation.

Whilst some of the legislative changes desire a reversion to the past, the jurisprudence of the employment court that has developed in the interim may well affect the governments political imperatives and objectives making it unreliable to take the legislative changes at their face value.        

As we step into the new year it is important to be aware of the changes in the employment law landscape and to predict how those changes might affect the work and business environment.

Below are some of the areas to watch: 

90-day trials: 90-day trials or better recruitment. Whilst the 90-day trial period has been extended to include all workplaces maybe it is time to reflect on their usefulness.

They may not be the silver bullet as they do not eliminate other obligations under the Employment Relations Act 2000 such as constructive engagement, obligation to provide a healthy and safe working environment, good faith. These obligations cannot be cancelled by a 90-day trial provision and remain significant and enforceable obligations which employers must meet.

Discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, culture or gender is also prohibited by an employer under 90 day-trial period.

The 90-day trial period often reflects more on poor recruitment processes than employment issues. Think about it. Where is the investment and risk better directed.

Flexible working arrangements:There is a growing trend towards more flexible working arrangements. This includes remote work, flexible hours and job sharing. These changes aim to promote work-life balance and increase employee satisfaction and more healthy working environments. The mistake made by employers is that flexible working is a right under Part 6AA of the Act. An employer can only decline for reasonable purpose and must act as a fair and reasonable employer in doing so.

Mental Health Considerations: Recently a former Noel Leeming employee was paid out something in the region of a $50K after suffering burnout –see Stuff article.

Recognizing the impact of mental health on employees, listening, engaging and implementing initiatives to make workplaces more mentally health friendly in 2024 would be a good investment.  

Treating employees with dignity and respect. Too often employers are focusing on the wrong issues such as concerns about performance and behaviour when the wider systemic issues of bullying and abuse of power in management are overlooked. Employers don’t need a formal complaint it matters not if there has been a formal complaint; if there is a smell of gas in the mine it needs to be investigated.

Data and Security: With increased used of digitalization and the unleashed potential of AI data/privacy leakage and security are becoming a big-ticket item. New laws will mean the need for greater vigilance IT systems and inhouse training.

Stay informed; know the changes and understand the impact on you and the workplace; make the utmost of the new year’s opportunities and challenges.

If you need employment law advice or assistance,contact our team today. We look forward to working with you in 2024.

Image Credit: S Eglinton

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

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Barbara Buckett

Barbara Buckett is a highly experienced senior employment lawyer with over 35 years of practice in New Zealand. She provides expert advice on all areas of employment law and has a proven track record of delivering excellent results for clients. Barbara has extensive experience in resolving workplace issues and is an experienced litigator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, working out, and fine wine and dining with friends.

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