Welcome to our new look newsletter and website. Firstly though before you get too far into reading our newsy topics, we would like to introduce our awesome staff to you.
From left to right Stacey O'Neill (Caseworker),Stephanie Moses (Manager),
Brenda Thomas (Reception),Marion Elvy (Caseworker), Tracey Hewitt (Caseworker).
We are heading into the season of Christmas, Community Law will be closing our doors for our well deserved break from 23 December but we will be back on deck 5 January 2015.
So from us to you, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.
Volunteer day 5 December
It's that time again, Volunteer day. Community Law Marlborough would like to take this time to thank the Volunteer lawyers who provide their time and knowledge willingly to many of our clients and to the staff at CLM. Thank you so much!
Lunch time law at the library starting 2015
Lunch time Law at the Library is starting on January 14. These are educational sessions on legal topics, held during a lunch time at the library. We will have topical topics every fortnight on Wednesdays during the time of 12.10-12.50. Come on down, grab a seat and enjoy the sessions - there is even enough time for you to get back to work.
We Acknowledge the partnership between CLM and MDC Library
Our lunchtime law sessions will be on hold due to the Earthquake strengthening being done. Further sessions will be advertised once available.
The day is beautiful, the sun is shining, and everyone packs into the cars to go to the beach. One car takes all the adults, and all four children squish into the other. With last year’s changes to the child restrain laws, however, who gets to sit in the front?
The law now provides that it is not just babies and toddlers that need proper car seats, but that children up to eight years of age (or are less than 148 cm’s tall) now require approved child restraints, which may include booster seats or a modified seat belt. It is required that babies up to 1 year of age are in an infant restraint (a lying down car seat), from 1 year to 4 years of age children are in a front facing car seat, and that from 4 to 10 years of age children have a booster seat and a child safety harness.
If there is no restraint or safety belt, children aged 8 to 14 years are required to sit in the back seat, rather than the front. Almost every car nowadays has safety belts at every seat, but this rule seems to suggest that children under 8 years of age are not allowed to sit in the front seat at all without a proper booster or car seat. This can cause problems when there are several children all being driven at once, and there is no available booster seat.
There is one exception to this rule, in that a child aged between 7 and 15 can sit in the front seat without an approved child restraint (booster seat) if there is no back seat, or if the back seat is already full of other children under 15. The child must use the safety belt, however.
This rule is sure to make teenagers ecstatic, as they can now legitimately banish their younger siblings to the back seat, but this exception helps get around those unforeseen circumstance of having a car full of children.
If you are unsure about what is required for your child, or if your 8 year old does not believe you, bring them down to the Community Law Centre for clarification.
Do not knock!!
Consumer NZ have launched “do not knock” campaign to fight back against dodgy door to door dealers. There are stickers available to warn sales people not to knock on your door. Community Law Marlborough has a limited supply of these stickers, if you would like some stickers please call in at 16 Market Street, Blenheim.
Summer is here... new alcohol laws
Summer is a wonderful time filled with parties, sunshine and fun, but some recent law changes mean that if you are taking a car, you must be extra careful to not get into trouble.
Drinking and driving: As of 1 December 2014, there will be a lower breath alcohol limits for adult drivers 20 years and over. This limit will reduce from 400 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath, to 250mcg. The blood alcohol limits will reduce from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg. Being over this limit can result in fines, loss of licence and possibly even jail time. It is best to drink carefully, catch a taxi, or even possibly walk if you are drinking on these beautiful summer evenings.
Speed limits: In recent years police have been trialling a lowered tolerance approach to speeders over holiday periods. Normally, police will allow a driver to be up to 10km per hour over the speed limit before they will give a ticket, to allow for variations in speedometers etc. During holiday periods, that is reduced to 4km per hour. To be on the safe side, be careful to stick as close to the speed limit as possible. Not only will this save you getting a ticket, but may potentially save the lives of others who are not paying as much attention.
With a little care, you can ensure you have a happy and safe Christmas, without any unwanted interventions from the police!
Changes to employment law..
There has been extensive coverage of the recent passing of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2013, with the bill largely being portrayed as a move against workers and unions. Why these changes have been made has not been as widely reported, however. There are clear reasons to make some of these changes, as can be seen below. Rather than trying to remove workers’ rights, some of these changes have been made to better reflect what is actually occurring in the real world.
The change that most people are concerned about is the change to tea breaks. While much media attention has claimed that tea breaks have been removed from the legislation, this is far from the case. In effect, this amendment simply increases flexibility for employers and employees to arrange meal breaks at times that suit them. In some positions (such as sole charge positions), it is not possible for the staff member to have meal or tea breaks, and so in reality, although they are legally entitled to these, they simply go without. This amendment now states that if you are in such a position, you can be paid extra money or work less hours instead. This can only occur if you and the employer both agree to you missing the break, and your work is of such a nature that you cannot reasonably take the break. Rather than removing the right to a meal break, this section simply makes sure that if for some reason the meal break is missed, the employee is compensated fairly. Making this amendment simply brings the law into line with what happens in reality for many small businesses.
The changes to the collective bargaining process do not remove union rights, but are aimed at not trapping unions and employers into unnecessarily protracted bargaining. Currently, the Act requires parties bargaining for a collective agreement to conclude a collective agreement unless there is genuine reason based on reasonable grounds not to. The current law sets a high threshold which can encourage parties to continue to bargain when agreement is unlikely because they do not meet, or believe they do not meet the threshold to cease bargaining. Now, parties will simply be required to bargain, in good faith, with the intention of reaching an agreement, but are not legally bound to actually reach agreement. This means that in some situations, collective bargaining may be abandoned when it is no longer going to benefit anyone.
When collective bargaining goes bad, employees currently have the option to go on strike, stopping work. Employers may respond by suspending or locking out employees. If employees are on strike, there is no obligation to pay them. For employees who are partially on strike and partially working, there currently is a complicate 4 step procedure in place to work out how much of the wage is to be paid to the employee. One of the amendments to the act aims to simplify that equation with a percentage based formula, giving a more proportionate response to partial strikes (rather than suspending the employee). Again, this change is based on increasing flexibility.
There has also been a removal of the “30 day rule”. This rule stated that anyone starting in a new position that was covered by a collective agreement was offered the same terms as the collective agreement, for the first 30 days. Now, employers can hire new employees without having to give this grace period. This amendment has been made to offer flexibility to employees and employers. Recent media reports have been saying that this will decrease union membership, but in reality it is likely to have the opposite effect, and increase membership. If an employee is offered terms that are less favourable than those who are part of the union and therefore subject to the collective agreement, then they are more likely to join the union so as to get the same benefits.
While these amendments can appear on the outside as removing rights, they have all been made with the aim of increasing flexibility for employees as well as employers, and to better reflect practices in the real world. Increasing flexibility around meal breaks, releasing parties from bargaining when a resolution cannot be reached, and allowing for a simpler pay structure for striking workers are all part of refining the law, to make sure it stays current and relevant. With these new changes coming into effect on 7 March 2015, it is best to be aware of how increased flexibility may improve your work life balance.
It can be tempting to over spend at Christmas time, to throw caution to the wind, to worry about it later. The credit card bills in January however are pretty painful for many people. Some realise that they can’t afford ALL of the commitments they made in December, and can end up in serious financial trouble. Last January credit card debt reached a record high in New Zealand, showing that debt increases incredibly over the Christmas period. If you feel that you are getting into unmanageable debt, there are options for how to deal with this before the busy Christmas season.
Options for dealing with unmanageable debt include:
Seeing a budget advisor. They can help you work out how you got into this situation and can help you think of ways to cut back on your expenditure.
Tell your creditors as soon as possible, so they know of your situation, and try to negotiate changes in your payments with the creditor so that these can be managed.
Check your credit contracts so you know what property may be repossessed, and find out what to expect if this happens.
Check to see whether Work and Income assistance is available.
If you think you will not be able to meet your tax obligations, contact the Inland Revenue Department and tell them of your situation.
Get legal advice about your insolvency options (just in case) e.g. No Asset Procedure, Summary Instalment Order, bankruptcy.With a little budgeting advice, you may find that you can afford most of what you would like for Christmas, but without the painful January financial hangover.