Possible Employment Law Reform
With a parliamentary majority and without coalition partners acting as a ‘handbrake,’ the Labour Party can bring about significant employment law reform within the next three years, should it so choose.
We take a look at what would be on employees’ wish lists from our new government:
Minimum wage increase
Labour has promised to increase minimum wage to $20 per hour next year. This will ensure that minimum wage employees have extra cash in their pocket and will undoubtedly come as a relief to households which are struggling to meet the rising costs of living.
Sick leave entitlements
Employees will hope that Labour makes good on its promise to increase sick leave to a minimum of 10 days per year, bringing us in line with Australia. In particular this will come as a relief to parents who must take care of their children’s health as well as their own. It also makes sense in a COVID world in which the government encourages workers to stay home if they have symptoms resembling those of COVID.
Rights for dependent contractors
‘Dependent contractors’ have the onerous obligations of employees with the legal benefits of contractors (that is, almost none). Prior to the election Labour promised to introduce rights and extend employment law to cover these dependent contractors, who are among the most vulnerable and exploitable group of workers in the country.
Such a change could be a game-changer for employment law in New Zealand. Employers would have to ensure that all workers, be they contractors or employees are fairly remunerated.
New public holiday
Labour’s election means it is likely the country will be celebrating Matariki with a public holiday from 2022. Aside from the fact that this would provide employees with a much-needed public holiday in the middle of winter (2020 saw 147 days between the Queens Birthday and Labour Day), it will have special meaning to all New Zealanders celebrating the Māori new year.
Pay Equity transparency
The Equal-Pay Amendment Act 2020 will make it easier for workers facing systemic discrimination in female-dominated industries to raise claims. This is likely to lead to interesting and exciting developments in the coming years.
Possibly the most difficult part of bringing a pay-equity claim is accessing industry-wide data to affirm whether an industry is potentially experiencing pay-equity issues. Labour has promised to improve transparency and access to such information to make this process a little bit easier.