What could the 2023 election mean for employment law? 

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With the election mere weeks away, and party campaigns in full swing, it’s a good time to reflect on what a potential change in Government will mean in the employment space. Below we look at the major players and their policy proposals, and what major changes may (or may not) be in store should we see a switch from red to blue post 14 October. Here’s our handy summary of the key employment policy proposals from each side of the house.

The National Party and ACT

The National Party and the ACT Party have both indicated that they will abolish Fair Pay Agreements, bringing an end to bargained agreements across entire industries. Both parties argue that Fair Pay Agreements are putting too much pressure on businesses and are slowing economic growth.

The similarities between their policies do not end there, but National’s employment policies seem more focussed on relaxing rules around migrant workers, and the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme. It wants to increase the cap on seasonal workers, relax rules for agricultural workers on AEWVs, and abolish the median wage requirements for workers on AEWVs. The Nats would also raise the upper limit for working holidays visas to 35, and allow additional working holiday visas for people trained in sectors with worker shortages.

The ACT Party does vow to simplify and streamline the current immigration system, including a ‘fast-track’ to residency for occupations on a ‘Green List’. Its policies also address delays in the current personal grievance process, by requiring the Employment Relations Authority to deliver its written determination within a month of investigation meetings concluding. It would also restrict the remedies available to employees, including the removal of reinstatement for unjustified dismissal. Most importantly, Act proposes resurrecting the 90-day trial period for all employers, so they may dismiss employees without reason within the first 90 days of employment. Currently, this is only available for small employers.

The Labour Party and the Green Party

As the incumbent party, Labour’s employment policies mostly maintain the status quo. It does propose to increase overseas recruitment of senior medical workers, and would provide two weeks of paid partner’s leave for new parents.

The Green Party, on the other hand, have come out with a raft of employment policies that are largely employee-centric. The most significant is an increase to minimum wage to match inflation, five weeks of annual leave, and extending paid parental leave to fifteen months. The Greens would also set a minimum entitlement to redundancy compensation and introduce default union membership. Overall, its policies are targeted towards employee entitlements, wages, and working conditions—alongside the development of low emission jobs and careers in clean energy.

New Zealand First

New Zealand First’s employment policies are few, but include the opposition of vaccine mandates and compensation for people who lost their jobs due to the mandates. They also propose to freeze the salaries of Members of Parliament, until frontline workers receive pay rises.

It’s anybody’s game

According to the political pundits, it’s going to be a close run election and we may well see New Zealand First back as kingmaker. It will be interesting to see how the next few months shape the employment space.

Don’t forget—polling day for this year’s election is Saturday 14 October. Employees are entitled to leave work at 3pm to vote for the remainder of the day, without deduction from pay.

How can we help?

We’ll keep you informed as any employment law changes crystallise.

WRMK Lawyers has Northland’s largest team of employment law specialists. We help our clients with all their employment processes.  If you need help or guidance, please give one of us a call or contact your usual WRMK lawyer for advice.

WRMK Lawyers takes all reasonable care to make sure that the information in this article is up-to-date and accurate at today’s date. It is necessarily general information and not intended as legal advice to be relied upon.

Our thanks to Georgia Blockley for writing this article. 

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