Businesses urged to check new laws
Local businesses should make sure they are across changes to health and safety, employment and parental leave legislation that will affect every office, factory, shop and workplace in the country says accountancy software provider MYOB. 
The new Health and Safety at Work legislation comes into force today with the aim of reducing the number of New Zealanders killed or injured at work. It introduces a range of new responsibilities for employers and means they will need to do what is “reasonably practical” to manage risk in the workplace.
MYOB spokesman Scott Gardiner says the vast majority of employers take workplace safety extremely seriously and there is a large cultural shift happening in New Zealand businesses.
“It is important all businesses understand their obligations when it comes to the new law. It’s not just big employers that need to be aware about the new obligations. Small and medium enterprises also have responsibilities to keep their staff safe on the job. 
“However, the majority of small businesses will be happy that the legislation doesn’t automatically require businesses outside of high-risk sectors with fewer than 20 staff to have elected Health and Safety Representatives.”
According to the latest MYOB Business Monitor, a nationwide survey of over 1,000 SME operators, almost two thirds (62 percent) of SMEs were supportive of the policy exempting small businesses from requiring a health and safety representative and committee. 
More information about employer obligations is available by visiting the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website here. 
In addition, last Friday the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2016 came into force. It has the effect of outlawing “zero hour contracts” and means that should the employer and employee agree on the number of hours of work, those hours will need to be reflected in the employment agreement, although the parties do not have to agree on hours if both prefer flexibility.
The law also means employers cannot require employees to be available to work more than their agreed hours without reasonable compensation, cancel a shift without giving reasonable notice or compensation, unreasonably dock wages or arbitrarily restrict secondary employment. 
Gardiner says that contrary to perceived wisdom, local SME operators will be pleased to see the end of unfair zero hour contracts.
“Amongst those in the small business community, who are often extremely close to their employees, any legislation that allowed zero hours was extremely unpopular,” he says.
“Thirty-eight percent of business operators surveyed in our Business Monitor survey said they opposed the previous legislation that allowed zero-hour contracts, while just fourteen percent supported it.”
Friday also saw the extension of Paid Parental Leave from 16 to 18 weeks and changes to some of the flexibility rules and eligibility criteria of the scheme. 
“The Government times workplace legislation to come in at the beginning of a new financial year. Many businesses have been busy with financial compliance issues, so they might not have caught up with what the changes mean for them,” says Gardiner.
To help businesses understand the impact of the new legislation, MYOB has produced an online presentation and webcast with input from the Inland Revenue Department, myHR, PeopleSafe, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 
This presentation is now available for businesses to view online in the MYOB Employer Essentials Seminar webcast.
Businesses can also register to download their free Essential Employer Guide at www.myob.co.nz/employeressentials