by | Jun 14, 2021

NZ employment law changes in 2021 and other key areas to watch

A number of changes are being made to the New Zealand Employment Law. As an employer it is important to stay up to date on changes and other key areas which may impact your team.

Changes to sick leave entitlement
The need for increased sick leave provisions was highlighted during the pandemic, reinforcing the importance of an employee staying at home if they are sick. Parliament has passed the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill to increase the minimum employee sick leave entitlement from 5 days to 10 days per year. Most employees who have worked for an employer for six months or over are entitled to sick leave if they, or a dependent, are sick or injured. Currently, employees are entitled to 5 days of sick leave per year; however, from 24 July 2021 this will increase to 10 days per year. Employees will get the extra five days when they reach their next entitlement date – either after reaching 6 months’ employment or on their sick leave entitlement anniversary (12 months after they were last entitled to sick leave). Employees who already get 10 or more sick days a year will not be affected by this change. The maximum amount of unused sick leave that an employee can be entitled to will remain 20 days.

Minimum wage increase
Following the minimum wage increase that came into effect on 1 April 2021 ($20.00 gross per hour) it is good practise for you as an employer to ensure your business’s employment agreements (contracts) are up to date. You can use this as an opportunity to ensure you are meeting your legal obligations and build stronger staff relationships. By law, every employee must have a current written employment contract. It must state the wage rate or salary payable, which must be equal or more than the relevant minimum wage. For any advice or help please contact us.

Bereavement leave to include the unfortunate event of a miscarriage or stillbirth
Employees will soon have the right to take paid time off work in the unfortunate event of a miscarriage or stillbirth, under law changes passed by Parliament. The law change allows an employee to take up to three days’ paid bereavement leave if they or their partner experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth. People planning to have a child through surrogacy or adoption are also eligible if the pregnancy ends by miscarriage or stillbirth.

Bereavement leave gives an employee time to grieve and to take care of matters to do with the bereavement. This can be taken at any time and for any purpose relating to the death, miscarriage or stillbirth, and does not have to be taken straight away or on consecutive days.

The existing rules on bereavement continue to apply. Employees become eligible for bereavement leave after six months.

Life Shavers campaign by WorkSafe New Zealand
WorkSafe New Zealand is launching a “Life Shavers” campaign to reduce respiratory harm. When workers are wearing respiratory protective equipment (RPE) at work, they should be clean shaven to make sure it’s forming a seal and protecting them from breathing in harmful materials. The Life Shavers campaign aims to educate workers about this important safety requirement. More information can be found here.

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