Several changes to employment laws are already in effect. Others will come into operation in April and May 2019.


When an employee is unjustifiably dismissed, he or she may seek remedies from the employer which includes compensation or reinstatement.

Under changes to New Zealand’s employment law (in effect since 12 December 2018), reinstatement is the primary remedy for a personal grievance (where the employee is no longer employed by the employer). The ERA will award reinstatement wherever it is practicable and reasonable to do so, regardless of whether it also provides other remedies such as compensation.

Unions in the workplace

From December 2018 Unions have the right to enter a workplace without consent of the employer if the workplace is covered by a collective agreement or bargaining for one is in progress. Union officials must comply with all health and safety requirements when in the workplace.

New employees (non-union members) will from 6 May 2019 must be employed for the first 30 days on terms consistent with or better than the collective agreement covering the workplace. After 30 days the employer and employee can negotiate an individual agreement.

Also in effect from 6 May will be provisions requiring employers to provide information on unions to employees and a copy of the collective agreement. The union must cover the cost of written materials it wants distributed. Union reps are to be given time off (in work time) to conduct union business and they must be paid by the employer for this time. Employers must give approved union choice forms to all employees within 10 days of starting employment and must pass those forms to the union unless the employee objects.

Vulnerable Employees

From December new categories of employees can apply to be considered vulnerable employees under a restructure. At present only cleaning, catering and laundry workers are protected.

In May 2019 the protections for vulnerable workers will be available in a restructure to all such employees regardless of the size of the workforce. At present those protections only apply where there are 20 or more employees.

Domestic Violence Leave

Employees who are suffering from domestic violence can from 1 April 2019 take up to 10 days domestic violence leave per year to deal with the effects of domestic violence. They can also request a short term variation of their employment arrangements (2 months or less) to help them deal with the results of the violence. An employer cannot unreasonably refuse such a request.

Work Breaks

From 6 May 2019 employers will be obliged to provide set rest and meal breaks to all employees at agreed or set times. These will be a minimum of two 10 minute rest breaks and one ½ hour meal break per 8 hour shift with adjustments for shorter or longer shifts.

90 Day Trial Periods

From 6 May 2019 these will only be available to employers with less than 20 employees. Employees will be able to be dismissed within the 90 days without reason. For employees where there are more than 19 employees any dismissal will be able to be challenged by way of an unjustified dismissal claim.

Alan Knowsley

Employment Lawyer