• Trish Hall

6 May 2019, Employment Law changes take effect today.

1. The right to set rest and meal breaks will be restored, the number and duration of which depends on the hours worked. For example, an eight-hour work day must include two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break, while a four-hour work day must include one 10-minute rest break.

Rest breaks benefit workplaces by helping employees work safely and productively. Employers must pay for minimum rest breaks but don’t have to pay for minimum meal breaks. Employers and employees will agree when to take their breaks. If they cannot agree, the law will require the breaks to be in the middle of the work period, so long as it’s reasonable and practicable to do so.

Some limited exemptions may apply for employers in specified essential services or national security services.


2. 90-day trial periods will be restricted to businesses with less than 20 employees. This change means the majority of employees will have protections against unjustified dismissal from when they start a job.

Businesses with 20 or more employees can continue to use probationary periods to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities. A probationary period lays out a fair process for managing performance issues and ending employment if the issues aren’t resolved.


3. Employees in specified ‘vulnerable industries’ will be able to transfer on their current terms and conditions in their employment agreement if their work is restructured, regardless of the size of their employer. Vulnerable industries refer to places of work where employees provide:

  • cleaning services, food catering services, caretaking or laundry services for the education sector (private and public pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary educational services);

  • cleaning services, food catering services, orderly services or laundry services for the health sector;

  • cleaning services, food catering services, orderly services, or laundry services in the age-related residential care sector;

  • cleaning services or food catering services in the public service or local government sector;

  • cleaning services or food catering services in relation to any airport facility or for the aviation sector;

  • cleaning services or food catering services in relations to any other workplace.

Changes also include a longer notice period for employees to elect to transfer to the new employer; this notice period is a minimum of 10 working days.


4. The duty to conclude bargaining will be restored for single-employer collective bargaining, unless there are genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds not to. This ensures that parties genuinely attempt to reach an agreement.


5. The 30-day rule will be restored. This means that for the first 30 days, new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement. The employer and employee may agree more favorable terms than the collective.


6. Pay rates will need to be included in collective agreements, along with an indication of how the rate of wages or salary payable may increase over the agreement’s term.


7. Employers will need to provide new employees with an approved active choice form’ within the first ten days of employment and return forms to the applicable union, unless the employee objects.

The form gives employees time to talk to their union representatives before considering and making a choice about whether to join a union or remain on the individual employment agreement.


8. Employers will need to allow for reasonable paid time for union delegates to undertake their union activities, such as representing employees in collective bargaining. Employees will need to agree with their employer to do so or, at a minimum, notify them in advance.

An employer will be able to deny the request if it will unreasonably disrupt the business or the performance of the employee’s duties.


9. Employees will need to pass on information about the role and function of unions to prospective employees. Unions must bear the costs if they want printed materials to be passed on.

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