From Polls To Policies Upcoming Changes In Employment Law

After six weeks of negotiations, the outcome of the New Zealand general election was confirmed on 24 November 2023.  The National, Act and New Zealand First parties have formed a coalition and, as part of this, have agreed to several employment and immigration reforms.  

Employment reforms

The National and Act 'Coalition Agreement' provides that the Government will make the following changes:

  • Repeal the Fair Pay Agreement regime by Christmas 2023
  • Reform health and safety law and regulations
  • All businesses will be able to use the 90-day trial period
  • Consider simplifying personal grievances and in particular:
    - removing the eligibility for remedies if the employee is at fault
    - setting an income threshold above which a personal grievance could not be pursued
  • Contractors who have explicitly signed up for a contracting arrangement will not be able to challenge their employment status in the Employment Court.
Immigration reforms

The National and New Zealand First 'Coalition Agreement' provides that the Government will:

  • Strengthen obligations on Jobseeker work-ready beneficiaries to find work and make use of sanctions for non-compliance with work obligations, and consider time limits for under 25s
  • Improve the Accredited Employer Work Visa to focus the immigration system on attracting the workers and skills New Zealand needs
  • Commit to moderate increases to the minimum wage every year
  • Ensure Immigration New Zealand is engaged in proper risk management and verification to ensure migrants are filling genuine workforce needs
  • Investigate the establishment of an “Essential Worker” workforce planning mechanism to better plan for skill or labour shortages in the long term
  • Commit to enforcement and action to ensure those found responsible for the abuse of migrant workers face appropriate consequences
  • Address and provide solutions for the long-expressed concern of the OECD into the lack of focus in New Zealand Immigration Policy.

The finer details of many of these reforms are not yet available.  In some instances, we expect that further policy work will be needed to better understand the issues and how they will be remedied.

We will keep an eye on any developments and provide updates and further analysis as information becomes available.  If you have any questions in the meantime, our national employment law team would be very happy to help.