Opinion: Employment law - A look at the year ahead (part 2)

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In the second part of a series for HRD, MinterEllisonRuddWatts looks at employment law in 2016, including an overview of privacy and discrimination cases, the NZ living wage and the continuing debate around restructuring and redeployment.

Privacy and Discrimination claims increasing
2016 is also likely to see a further increase in privacy and discrimination cases before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. In light of some recent substantial compensation, awards and some well-publicised cases, more employees whose claims involve privacy or human rights issues will consider going to the Tribunal, rather than the Employment Relations Authority.

New Zealand living wage under scrutiny
We will continue to see the concept of fair wages being scrutinised, particularly in the context of the Equal Pay Act. Litigation is already underway in the aged care sector, and unions have indicated that they will look to pursue this issue for large groups of employees such as midwives, education support workers and clerical staff.
 
The Government has recently announced that a Joint Working Group, involving employers and unions, will be set up to recommend principles on pay equity that could be applied in all sectors. We also expect to see continued pressure in collective bargaining for employees to be paid a “living wage”. Ongoing scrutiny of employers by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to ensure compliance with minimum entitlement will also continue to be a focus.

Redeployment and restructuring...the debate continues
An interesting space to watch in 2016 will be the continuing legal debate surrounding redundancies. Redeployment and restructuring decisions by employers will be closely watched by both the Employment Court and the Authority. If enacted, the proposed legislative changes mean employers should refresh on the scope of minimum entitlements owed to employees, and consider updating relevant policies and related messaging to employees to be compliant with new provisions. Auditing current record keeping practices and examining any employee agreements that may fall foul of zero-hour contract rules is also a good idea.

As case law around redundancies evolves, it is imperative that HR professionals stay attuned to changes to reduce the risks of challenges to the redundancy processes of the business

What you can consider doing in 2016
Talk to an expert about reducing your risk in these key areas. Consider training your staff and most importantly uses this time to review your policies to ensure they cover you for the year ahead.

You may also find it useful to subscribe to receive updates on Employment law changes.

Read part one in this series here.

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