New Zealand’s laws are changing constantly, and many of them will affect small businesses and individuals. Let’s take a look at some of the new bills and changes in law that may affect you and/or your business over the next month and beyond. 

ACC Work Levies drop 

If you are a small business, you will see your ACC levies drop over the next couple of years. ACC, or Accident Compensation Corporation, is New Zealand’s accident protection scheme, which essentially provides cover in case of an accident, including paying for treatments, hospitalisation and possibly help with your financial responsibilities while you’re injured. Companies are required to pay an ACC work levy as well as individuals, and this goes to cover a general ACC fund. 

The government is reducing these levies for small businesses up to 6.9 percent, which will be a welcome relief for many struggling businesses. These will automatically be updated, so you don’t need to update anything yourself, but rather simply adjust your budget as necessary. Self employed levies are changing as well, so make sure to keep up to date with this if you are self employed. 

Bill to update oil spill obligations 

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has announced a new bill around oil spill insurance regulations. Currently this is covered under the Maritime Transport Act 1994. Essentially, this amendment would strengthen the requirements for owners of offshore oil and gas installations to have insurance in case of an oil spill. This means that in case of a spill, the insurance would help cover things like environmental damage and loss of profit for those affected by the spill. 

This comes at an important time in history as globally, we begin to focus heavily on preventing environmental disasters like oil spills. Spills have catastrophic effects on the environment, sometimes drastically affecting bird migratory patterns, mating patterns, and in general the safety of many animals. Fish and other marine animals near the oil spill often have difficulty recovering from a disaster. New Zealand has had its fair share of oil spill crises, so this new bill is just one small way to hopefully help reduce them, or at least ensure that those affected are covered. We hope to see this bill enacted in November of this year. 

Voter Enrolment to be updated 

Voting in many countries is often a contentious subject. In the United States, for example, voter fraud and ID rules have been in the news quite a bit. With President Donald Trump claiming mass voter fraud all over the country, many states have chosen to enact or keep strict voting rules in place. Some states require an ID to vote, which can be both good and bad, but often indirectly causing hardship for people who aren’t able to easily get an ID. 

Over in New Zealand, the Ministry of Justice has announced an intention to change rules around voter enrolment and voting. Rather than making the rules stricter and more difficult like in the US, NZ is working to make both processes easier. For example, same-day voter registration is to be considered, where you no longer need to register in advance to be able to vote. Currently, you need to be registered the Friday before an election day, which can cause an undue hardship on some people who aren’t able to get registered until the weekend, for example. 

An intention to create more voting places, and in more accessible places was also announced. Think supermarkets as well as schools and churches, with plenty of parking and public transportation. The Justice Minister is also hoping to change the rules around overseas voting so it becomes easier for those Kiwis living abroad. If you want to know more about the voting process in New Zealand, click here

Firearms buy-back scheme 

The laws around gun control in New Zealand continue to change rapidly after the Christchurch mosque shooting. The newest update announced by NZ government is a firearms buy-back scheme, similar to the one seen in Australia after the Tasmania shootings. This is just one part of what New Zealand and the rest of the world has done to change gun laws, hopefully for the better. 

New Zealand is setting aside over $208 million for the scheme, which was agreed by the government just weeks after the shooting. The scheme is set to last until December of this year, which provides 6 months for gun owners to participate. So far, before the scheme was even in place, 700 guns had already been turned in, showing a willingness by Kiwis to change. New Zealand has a high gun ownership rate, so it will be interesting to watch this programme unfold over the next six months and see the numbers come in. 

High penalties paid for employment law breaches 

Moving into employment relations, we continue to see many businesses across New Zealand failing to follow employment legislation and basic minimum employee rights. The latest in a long string of investigations by the Labour Inspectorate is into a liquor store and dairy business that was not paying appropriate minimum wage and holiday pay to its employees. 

This is just one of over 60 investigations in New Zealand that has been going on in liquor stores since 2012. It’s clear this is a big area for mistakes and purposeful law avoidance, so businesses like this need to take a serious look at their employee’s pay and ensure they are following the law. The Labour Inspectorate will continue their investigations, especially if any complaints are made by staff, so it’s important to keep meticulous employee records and audit regularly to ensure you’re paying appropriate minimum wage and holiday pay.

This wraps up our monthly update for changes in New Zealand’s laws and bill proposals. 

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