On June 8, New Zealand declared itself virus-free, moving to level one, the lowest of a four-tier alert system for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. However, travel bans, labor law changes, and various other rules that were implemented earlier this year to help the nation cope with the coronavirus outbreak are still in place.
Employment Relations Act
The Employment Relations Act covers the basic principles governing the legal protections and obligations of both employers and employees in New Zealand. In April, it was modified by Order in Council as part of the Epidemic Preparedness Act.
The main modification is the extension in timeframes for collective bargaining. The temporary amendment also allows labor unions to propose an alternative procedure for the ratification of their demands, especially if the normal sanction process can no longer be followed under the current circumstances.
For instance, in-person meetings and gatherings of a large number of people are not only considered unsafe but even prohibited by law in various regions.
However, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, social distancing is not mandatory in the country anymore as it is believed to have eliminated the virus successfully.
So, these modifications might soon be reversed or revised as per the current situation.
Employment Law Updates
Apart from the COVID-19 related changes, the employment legislation in New Zealand also saw some other modifications in the payroll and leave laws.
- The minimum wage for employees who are just starting out or serving a training tenure is raised from $13.20 to $14.16 per hour.
- The minimum hourly wage rate for regular employees is increased from $17.70 to $18.90. This equals a total of $48 (pre-tax) per week for those currently working at the minimum base rate for 40 hours every week.
- All employment rights and entitlements will apply to workers who are aged 16 or under. However, the minimum wage for these employees is unspecified.
- Effective from July 1, 2020, the Paid Parental Leave now consists a total of 6 weeks
- Employees availing the parental leave can receive a maximum of up to $585.80 per week as opposed to the previous maximum weekly pay of $564.38
Domestic Violence Leave Law
New Zealand also introduced a new leave policy for employees who may be facing domestic violence.
- If an employee or a minor in their care is affected by this problem, the employee can apply for a paid domestic violence leave.
- They can also request their employer for flexible working hours or ask for a different working arrangement altogether.
- Under this policy, the affected employee is eligible for 10 days paid leave (per year). The short-term working arrangement will be valid for up to 2 months.
These leave laws and payroll changes are permanent. However, the recent amendments in the New Zealand Employment Relations Act 2020 discussed above are subject to change depending on the development of COVID-19 in the country.