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Be aware of new updates to NZ Employment Law


On 6 May 2019, major changes to the Employment Relations Act went into effect. This amendment means that employers need to update employee agreements and make sure that their business practices meet the new standards and that employees are now eligible for more entitlements. In this document, we will focus on some of the major changes, and other amendments can be read about in more detail from the Ministry of Business

Reinstatement of mandatory meal and rest breaks

Meal breaks and paid rest breaks are now mandatory for all workers, and the number and type of breaks that an employee receives is based on the number of hours that they work. The breaks should be taken at a specified time agreed upon by the employee and employer. 

  • For shifts of fewer than 2 hours in length, no break is required. 
  • One paid 10-minute rest break for shifts of 2-4 hours.
  • At 4-6 hours, employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest break and 30-minute meal break. The meal break can be unpaid. 
  • A full 8-hour shift requires 2 10-minute rest breaks and a 30-minute meal break. 
  • After 8 hours, entitlements work as if a new shift has started (1st paid break at 10 hours). 

Limitations on Trial Periods

Trial periods are now only available to employers with 19 or fewer total employees instead of being available to any business with a maximum of 90 days. Probationary periods are still an option for larger businesses, but the employee must be given a reason for dismissal and the probation period must be clearly stated in the employee agreement. 

More protections for employees in vulnerable industries

Employees in vulnerable industries must now have the option of transferring their existing terms of their employment agreement if their work is restructured, such as a company being bought out by a competitor. Vulnerable industries include laundry or caretaking services in the education, mental health, age-related residential care, local government, and aviation sectors. All cleaning and food catering services in any workplace are also considered vulnerable industries. 

Many changes to collective agreements

Collective employee agreements and unions were a major focus of the Employee Relations Amendment Act 2018. These changes include the following:

  • New employees must have terms consistent with the collective agreement for the first 30 days. 
  • Pay rates must now be included in collective agreements. 
  • Union delegates must be given reasonable paid time off to fulfil their union duties. 
  • Employers must not give information about the role and function of unions to its employees. 

If you have any questions about what these changes mean for you, feel free to call or contact us and we’ll see if we can give you a suitable answer. 


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