Potential Employment Issues within a changing political environment
With a change of Government there is the expectation that significant changes will be made to the current employment legislation. Although the Coalition Government has not released its confirmed employment policy a number of potential changes have already been talked up by the Minister with these expected to take shape further in the New Year. Changes on the horizon are likely to be:
- An increase in the Minimum Wage from the current $15.75 to $16.50 as of 1 April 2018, with this being the commencement of a process to see the Minimum Wage reach $20.00 per hour by 2021 (this will of course have substantial flow on effects to other workers currently within the $18 – 25 per hour bracket who will be seeking similar increases to retain their current relativities).
- Tightening of the s67A 90 Day Trial Period provisions to render these almost unusable for Employers (see further article below).
- Reduction of immigration numbers resulting in a tightening labour market. With unemployment already at relatively low figures (4.7%), and with 3.0% unemployment being deemed an acceptable threshold to account for individuals who will never hold down a regular job, those transitioning between jobs and those having a break from employment the real ‘unemployment rate’ is more likely to be 1.7%. With a reduction in immigrant workers this will mean available labour resources will become extremely scarce with a flow on effect being that productivity (and the economy) may slow down. Economic growth is anticipated to reduce by 0.4% (to 3.0%) in the next 12 month period with inflation increasing from 1.4% to 2.0% in the same period.
- Greater scrutiny on Employers of immigrant workers whereby, should the Employer be deemed to have breached the Minimum Employment Standards (ERA 2000) not only will they incur significant penalties, they may have their right to Employee immigrant labour (including those staff already employed) withdrawn for a period.
- Introduction of Minimum Award Standard (Fair Pay) for specific groups of workers. Following on the back of the recent Pay Equality Ruling for Health Care Workers which imposed minimum legal rates of pay it is widely anticipated that the groups of workers to be covered within a national ‘fair pay’ award structure will be greatly increased.
- Review of The Holidays Act 2003 which may include:
An increase in the number of eligible sick days from 5 to 10 annually
A potential increase in the number of annual leave days to be provided
An increase in the number of public holidays that may be made available
A change to the way payments for leave, sick, bereavement and public holidays is calculated
- Enhanced provisions to promoted collective bargaining and union membership
While the above are being widely discussed by the new Government the final shape of any new legislation will only be know at a later date as the Coalition Government further structures its overall employment strategy and policies.