Opinion: Employment law - A look at the year ahead (part 1)

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In part one of a series of articles for HRD, MinterEllisonRuddWatts looks ahead at proposed employment legislation changes in 2016, including amendments to the Employment Relations act and how to social media risk.

2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year in the employment space. Significant changes will be taking place in the health and safety space, minimum employment standards will be revamped, the government will take a greater look at equal pay concerns, and employers will come face to face with complex issues around redundancies and restructuring.
This first update for HRD from the team at MinterEllisonRuddWatts looks at the proposed Employment legislation changes and managing social media risk and opportunities. 

Employment legislation is changing
The Employment Standards Legislation Bill is currently making its way through Parliament, and seeks to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, the Minimum Wage Act 1983, the Holidays Act 2003, and the Wages Protection Act 1983. Significant changes proposed by the Bill include:
  • extending the scope of paid parental leave to more workers, and making the scheme more flexible;
  • addressing concerns around “zero hour contracts”, where employees are not guaranteed minimum hours of work but are prohibited from working for other employers;
  • introducing obligations on employees to keep records showing compliance with minimum entitlement provisions into the good faith provisions in the Employment Relations Act.
The Select Committee is due to report back on the Bill on 12 February 2016, and the Bill is scheduled to come into force on 1 April 2016. For businesses, there will likely be ongoing scrutiny of employers by MBIE to ensure they are compliant with minimum entitlements.

Managing social media risk
The increasing use of social media, including as a business tool, will require organisations to think more carefully about how to manage the associated risks. Given the legal and reputational harm that can result when workers act inappropriately via social media we expect to see more organisations clearly setting out rules of use for employees (and others), the consequences of misuse and how to safeguard information from unauthorised access and disclosure.

What you can consider doing in 2016
With these changes coming and the ever evolving digital workplace now is a good time to review your social media policy, or talk to an expert to help you draft a policy. To help ensure that your staff understands their responsibilities it could be a good time to look at training them. After recognising an increasing burden on businesses to ensure staff understand, and are compliant with, legal obligations Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, recently launched an online training tool called Safetrac, to help their clients to do this in a time and cost effective manner, whilst providing a full audit trail.

Further information can be found here: http://safetrac.co.nz

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