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Labour lodges bill to scrap zero-hour contracts

Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party

Labour is taking action against one of the most insidious attacks on vulnerable workers by today lodging a Members Bill against zero-hour contracts.12 February 2015 MEDIA STATEMENT

Labour lodges bill to scrap zero-hour contracts

Labour is taking action against one of the most insidious attacks on vulnerable workers by today lodging a Member’s Bill against zero-hour contracts.

Certainty at Work Bill sponsor and Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says the spread of zero-hour contracts is a nasty result of the global financial crisis and the failure of Government to protect vulnerable workers.

“Labour believes a balance must be achieved between flexibility and certainty in the workplace. Zero-hour contracts do not strike that balance and have no place in modern employment relations.

“Unlike casual agreements that provide flexibility for both employer and employee, zero-hour contracts require employees to be available for work at all times but place no expectations at all on employers to provide work.

“The Certainty at Work Bill requires employment agreements to include an indication of the hours an employee will have to work to complete the tasks expected of them. It maintains flexibility for employers while giving employees certainty about the amount of work they can expect to be offered.

“Given widespread public disapproval of zero-hour contracts, I hope eliminating them will be a priority for Parliament this year and that New Zealand workers will finish 2015 in a much better position than they started it,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.

Attached: Certainty at Work Bill

Certainty at Work Bill

Member’s Bill

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill amends the Employment Relations Act 2000 (the Act) to improve certainty for working New Zealanders in three ways:

It makes hours of work more certain for working people. It ensures that collective agreements include wage and salary information. It clarifies that casual employment agreements are subject to the provisions of the Act that apply to fixed-term agreements.

New Zealand has almost no working-hours regulation. There is no requirement in the Act to include specified working hours in employment agreements. This has resulted in a proliferation of so-called ‘zero-hour’ contracts that require employees to be available for work but do not guarantee the amount of work that will be available to them.

This Bill amends the Act to require the specified hours a person is expected to work to carry out their duties to be included in their employment agreement, whether individual or collective.

There is no requirement in the current Act for pay rates to be included in a collective agreement. One of the key purposes of collective bargaining is to address and improve pay. The lack of a specific requirement for them to be included in collective agreements means some employees have not been able to reach agreement for pay scales with wages and salaries being set on an individual agreement basis.

This Bill amends the Act to require minimum wages or salary payable to each category of work to be included in collective agreements.

The use of casual employment agreements is increasing as employers seek more flexibility in the workplace. Yet there is no reference to casual employment agreements in the Act. A casual employment agreement is essentially an agreement to enter into a series of fixed term agreements whenever the employer has work to offer and the employee is available to take up that work.

This bill clarifies that Section 66 of the Act, which relates to fixed term agreements, applies to casual agreements: Employers need to have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for offering short term casual work that are not simply about reducing employee’s rights or making them easy to dismiss.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the title clause.
Clause 2 provides that the Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives Royal Assent.
Clause 3 provides that the Employment Relations Act 2000 be amended.
Clause 4 amends section 54 of the Act to require that collective agreements includes the wages of each different category of employee covered by the collective agreement and the working hours arrangements that an employee would be expected to work.
Clause 5 amends section 65 of the Act to strengthen the language of the requirement that hours of work be included in an individual agreement to the working hour arrangements of employee.
Clause 6 amends section 66 to clarify that casual employment agreements are subject to the provisions of section 66.

Iain Lees-Galloway

Certainty at Work Bill

Member’s Bill
Contents

Page
1 Title 1
2 Commencement 1
3
4

5

Principal Act Amended
Section 54 Amended (Form and content of collective agreement)
Section 65 Amended (Terms and conditions of employment where no collective agreement applies)
1
1

2

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1 Title
This Act is the Certainty at Work Act 2015.

2 Commencement
This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

3 Principal Act Amended
This Act amends the Employment Relations Act 2000.

4 Section 54 Amended (Form and content of collective agreement)
Section 54 of the Principal Act is amended to insert following section 54(3)(a)(v):
“(vi) the minimum wages or salary scales payable to employees for each category of work; and
(vii) specified working hours that would normally be expected for the employees to be able to perform the work; and”

5 Section 65 Amended (Terms and conditions of employment where no collective agreement applies)
Section 65(2)(a)(iv) is amended to read:
“(iv) specified working hours that would normally be expected for the employee to be able to perform the work; and”

6 Section 66 Amended (Fixed Term Employment)
Section 66 of the Principal Act is amended to insert the following section 66(7):
“For the avoidance of doubt, this section applies to casual employment agreements.”

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