New Labour Government – what’s on the workplace reform agenda?

At New Zealand’s October general election, the Labour Party won a majority of Parliament’s seats and is likely to govern alone. Some of the workplace policies Labour campaigned on included:

  • Increasing minimum sick leave entitlement to 10 days per year. Labour will seek to increase this entitlement within the first 100 days of the new Government;
  • Reforming the Holidays Act 2003 to simplify leave calculations and allow annual and sick leave to accrue over time (rather than leave entitlements arising in blocks);
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour in 2021. Labour has promised to take a ‘balanced approach’ to increases beyond 2021.

New protections for contractors

It is also likely that new protections for contractors will be introduced. We expect that Labour will effectively make ‘dependent contractors’ (contractors who work under the control of one ‘employer/principal’) a third category of workers by providing them additional entitlements and protections compared to truly independent contractors. Labour has promised it will allow contractors to bargain collectively, require written contracts for contractors and introduce a duty of good faith for contracting parties. In November 2019, MBIE released a discussion paper with a number of ‘options for change’ for contractors. The options included changing the legal definition of ‘employee’ and making it easier for workers to have their employment status determined. While this paper did not receive much attention in 2020, some of the suggestions have already been adopted by Labour (e.g. the right to bargain collectively) and we expect more will be included in any package of reforms.

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