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Brief Counsel

National's employment relations policy

28 October 2011

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National is promising to introduce more flexibility into the workplace if elected to a second term. 

Key policy points

The key points relevant to business include:

  • greater flexibility for employers in unionised workplaces:
      • removal of the requirement that non-union members be employed on the collective agreement terms for their first 30 days
      • removal of the requirement to conclude collective bargaining (currently bargaining must be concluded by the parties entering into a collective agreement, unless there is a genuine reason not to do so)
      • ability to opt out of multi-employer collective contract negotiations, and
      • ability to apply partial pay cuts in response to partial strikes or other low level industrial action
  • a promised review of "constructive dismissal".  National’s stated aim is to ensure this concept is used less often by employees as an “allegation of last resort”
  • extending flexible working arrangements by removing the requirement to invoke a formal process, the six month rule before the employee has the right to request a flexible arrangement, and the limit on the number of requests an employee may make within a 12-month period, and
  • introducing a “Starting-Out Wage” set at 80% of the minimum wage for young workers. 

Chapman Tripp comment

National’s latest policy will be generally welcomed by employers, although it does not deliver on the Party’s 2008 promise to open up collective bargaining to non union groups.  This seems to have been dropped.

Constructive dismissal claims are frequently made but rarely successful.   A moderate change in this area is welcome.  Employers could then be more direct and honest about poor performance and conduct, without creating a material risk of a claim (as is currently the case).

National’s full policy is available here

Labour’s policy, available here, takes a more collectivist and centralist approach based around an award-style system of Industry Standard Agreements.

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