Employment minister Kate Wilkinson is seeking feedback on extending the 90 day trial period for new workers, and changing the rules over when it is fair to dismiss employees.
A Department of Labour” discussion document on personal grievances, which the minister released earlier this week, includes suggestions to increase the length of the 90-day period for workers in small workplaces, and also to extend the 90-day rule, presently restricted to workplaces employing fewer that 20 staff, to those with up to 49.
It also proposes changing the “justifiable dismissal” test, giving employers many more grounds to dismiss staff, and downgrading the natural justice requirements – the right to be told, explain, have that explanation considered – and removing reinstatement as a primary remedy.
Ms Wilkinson argues that the review is about cutting red tape and regulation.
“A number of concerns have been raised about the personal grievance system, including uncertainty about the law and the ability for parties to spin out the legal battle for years,” Ms Wilkinson said.
However, she told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report yesterday that while the Government has suggested expanding the 90-day trial period for workers, it doesn’t yet know how many are using the scheme.
The trial period was introduced in April 2009, allowing an employee in a workplace with fewer than 20 staff to be dismissed in the first 90 days without the right to bring a personal grievance. Currently it covers very few workers in the tertiary education sector, but the proposed changes could see numerous smaller providers, especially PTEs, covered by the legislation.
Papers released under the Official Information Act show the Labour Department is conducting a survey because it knows little about the uptake of the probationary period.
Minister Wilkinson told Morning Report there is anecdotal evidence the scheme is working. However, CTU president Helen Kelly says the proposals undermine fundamental rights to a fair hearing and security of employment.