As always we have had some pretty big changes to the law in New Zealand for this month. In employment law, we’re looking at some positive changes with parental leave payments, and more flexibility for raising a grievance in certain situations for workers. In the rest of New Zealand law, changes to privacy is on the docket as well as much needed changes to rental properties. Join us as we look at these updates in more detail. 

Parental Leave payments increase

New parents will be grateful for this update, as it means higher payments while out on parental leave. Government funded parental leave is the base amount new parents get weekly, and it’s increasing from $564.38 per week to $585.80 per week. Self employed parents are also getting a bump, to $177.00 per week. At the moment, these payments can last for up to 22 weeks after the birth of the child. Further good news is coming in 2020, where these payments will be extended to 26 weeks. 

Parental leave in New Zealand ranks fairly low around the world, so these updates are a welcome relief and much needed for new parents. Unfortunately, while every little bit does help, New Zealand is still not catching up to the likes of Scandinavia or other countries in Europe where parental leave is paid at much higher rates, for longer, and is shared more equally by mothers and fathers. This is a stark difference to New Zealand, where only about 1% of Kiwi fathers are taking the option of parental leave. One famous example of this is of course our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford. Hopefully with more families like this that either take the leave equally, or show it’s very much possible for the father to take the lion’s share of leave, more fathers around NZ will be encouraged to as well.  

For employers, this update will need to be factored into any budgets as applicable. Many employers in New Zealand choose to offer an additional payment above the government paid leave, such as a top up to their salary while on leave. In case you’re wondering, here’s a good article listing off some of the companies with the best parental leave top-up benefits. And here is additional information about taking parental leave if you have any questions. 

New grievance options are introduced in a new law 

Employees in New Zealand have many options when it comes to raising a personal grievance at work. Essentially, within 90 days, an employee can raise a grievance to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), without having to raise it with the employer first, although this is usually a good idea and is highly encouraged to try and resolve the issue internally. More about the process can be found here

A new law passed in June, however, means that employees in triangular employment can join the third party to a grievance claim, versus only being able to raise a grievance with one out of the two parties they’re involved in. If you don’t understand triangular employment or want to learn more, click on this link. Essentially, this type of employment means you may be employed by a sole employer but are carrying out work for another employer that has control over the employee, such as how many contractors or labour workers are employed.

This is an important update for these employees as previously, if they had any kind of issue with the controlling third party, they weren’t able to raise anything. They would have been able to reach out to their sole employer, but there is limited action this employer could take, considering the third party was separate and not under the employer’s rules or code of conduct. For employers who are the controlling third party and have triangular employees like this, it’s really important that your grievance policies are updated and employment relations professionals are aware and updating other policies as needed. These employers are no longer safe from being brought to the ERA with issues, and cannot hide behind this in the future. While the law is not scheduled to take effect for another year, beginning to update policies and retraining HR Professionals, for example, should start now. 

Privacy law changes 

Privacy is a massive issue across the world, and we’re seeing huge amounts of legislation change the face of data and how we interact with it. In the European Union, for example, the GDPR (General Data Protection Act), was enacted in 2016 and requires organisations to become GDPR compliant have appropriate data protections in place. This includes storage of data, asking for data and getting consent for it, among hundreds of other things. 

In New Zealand, a new Privacy Bill is likely to become law by the end of this year, and will also change the way we approach data and store it. Some of the main changes likely to head our way is around reporting privacy breaches and what to do when someone requests their personal information held by a company. As a business, you ought to be reporting your privacy breaches immediately, however this bill will solidify this into law and also require you to not only report the breach to the privacy commissioner, but notify the people affected as well. 

Healthy Homes – new laws in place for rental properties 

The 1st of July saw new requirements in place for rental properties in New Zealand. The new healthy home requirements include things like keeping rental homes warmer and drier, and including a statement that landlords are following the healthy home requirements in the original tenancy agreement. 

This is important for landlords as they will now need to keep records that they are doing this and actually follow the requirements as well. Most rental property owners will have through the next several years to meet the requirements, including things like installing ceiling and underfloor insulation. 

That wraps up this month in law updates for New Zealand.  

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