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Changes to Employment Law | 2019


The reason behind these changes is to “restore key minimum standards and protections for employees including strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace”.

  • Trial Periods

  • Rest and Meal Breaks

  • Personal Grievances

  • Protection for Vulnerable Workers

  • Collective Bargaining and Unions

  • Make Sure You Comply


From 6 May only small to medium sized employer (fewer than 20 employees) will be able to enter into an agreement with a trial period.  Trial periods entered into before that date will remain enforceable, so long as all the boxes are ticked.

  • A trial period is a written provision in an employment agreement that states for a specific period (not more than 90 days) starting at the beginning of the employee’s employment the employee is to serve a trial period
  • During the trial period the employer may dismiss the employee and the employee is not entitled to bring a personal grievance in respect of the dismissal.


Here we see that set meal and rest breaks are being reintroduced, which is stepping away from the flexibility of the current legislation. The parties can agree at the timing of the breaks, but failing agreement the Act provides set timing which would normally be in the middle of the shift.  

Some examples are below;

Length of
work period

Minimum entitlement

Timing of breaks

Between 2-4 hrs

A 10 minute paid rest break

In the middle of the work period

Between 4–6 hrs

10 min rest break & 30 min meal break

Rest break at 1/3 mark, meal break at 2/3 mark

Between 6–8 hrs

Two 10 min rest breaks & 30 min meal break

Meal break in the middle of the work period, rest breaks half way between

More than 8 hrs

Two 10 min rest breaks & 30 min meal break

Meal break in the middle of the work period with the rest breaks halfway between start of work and the meal break


Reinstatement has been restored as the primary remedy for a personal grievance where requested by the employee bringing the claim.  Reinstatement is the re-employment of the employee in their previous position, or in a position no less advantageous to the employee.  The authority may provide for reinstatement in addition to any other remedies it sees fit, if it is practicable and reasonable to do so.


The changes to the Act for “Protections for Vulnerable Workers” now apply to all businesses regardless of size.

What this means is that employees in the specified category, whose work is to be performed by another person due to a restructure (including a sale of the business), have the right to transfer their employment to that other person/organisation on the same terms and conditions.


There are changes to the law governing collective bargaining. Overall these strengthen the position of unions. These include:

  • Bargaining for collective agreements must be concluded unless there are ‘genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds’ for it not to be.
  • Businesses must now enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements, if asked to join by a union. They will not have to settle a multi-employer collective agreement if their reason for not wanting to settle id based on reasonable grounds.
  • Collective agreements must provide rates of pay, and union representatives gain a limited right to enter workplaces without consent, provided the employees are covered by, or bargaining towards, a collective agreement.
  • The 30-day rule will be restored, which means that the new employee must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement.  The employer will need to provide the employee with an approved active choice form within the first 10 days of employment, this gives the employee time to talk to their union representatives before considering and making a choice to join the Union or not.


Employers should be mindful and consider any of the amendments made by the Employment Relations Amendment Act to ensure compliance. This will involve reviewing your employment agreements, policies, and procedures as required.

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