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As an employer, keeping on top of employment law changes is vital if you want to avoid personal grievances and enforcement action by the Labour Inspectorate.

Some law changes came into effect on 1 April 2019. The next round happens on 6 May 2019.

Minimum wage increase

The Adult Minimum Wage is now $17.70 per hour. It is illegal for your employees to work for less.

To avoid this situation, make sure you pay workers the minimum rate and record this clearly in a written employment agreement.

Written employment agreements

Every worker must have a written employment agreement.

The Employment Relations Authority can already penalise you for non-compliance. But, from 6 May 2019, you will also commit an infringement offence, which could attract a $1,000 fine.

No more 90-day trial periods

From 6 May 2018, you will only be allowed to use a 90-day trial period for new employees if you are a “small-to-medium-sized-employer” (i.e. you employ less than 20 workers). All other employers are excluded.

Employers who employ 20 or more workers can use a probation period instead. This is similar to a 90-day trial period, but you will not have the same absolute protection against personal grievance claims. All standard employment law process must be followed when dealing with an employee under a probation clause. It is important that you take advice before inserting these clauses.

Rest and meal breaks

Under the law change on 6 May 2019, an employee must be given their entitled breaks. The breaks cannot be exchanged for extra pay or time in lieu.

An employer and an employee can agree, either in an employment agreement or by reference to internal policies, on when breaks can be taken. However, if no agreement is reached, the default timing rules will automatically apply.

Vulnerable employees

From 6 May 2019, as an employer, if you take over the work of vulnerable employees – including cleaning and catering staff – you will be required to employ these workers. There will no longer be any exemption for small-to-medium-sized-employers. This will make due diligence when considering a new contract or acquisition even more important.

Other changes

The new law will also give employees the right to domestic violence leave, and provide stronger union powers and collective bargaining rules.

We have several experts available to review and update your existing employment arrangements. Please call us to discuss.

Hamish Evans, Partner

+64 3 977 5397

Sam Henry, Senior Solicitor

+64 3 974 2268

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