The coalition Government’s decision to keep 90-day trial periods for workers at small companies may work politically for Labour, despite the party having campaigned to scrap the trials altogether, according to 1 NEWS political Editor Corin Dann.
The law that allows firms to fire workers without reason in their first 90 days is to remain for businesses with less than 20 staff, at the behest of New Zealand First. The trial periods will be scrapped for those working at larger companies.
Labour campaigned strongly on removing the trial periods, but Dann says he’s not sure the politics of the matter have ended up that badly for Labour.
“This is a period where we’ve seen very low business confidence, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and to not be going through with that change for small business will be welcomed, I think, by many employers, particularly with those small numbers of staff and perhaps they don’t have a HR department,” he said.
“So that might work out reasonably well for Labour, because it is worth remembering that in many ways this isn’t the big game when it comes to industrial relations and Labour. That is coming in about a year’s time with fair pay legislation.”
Fair pay legislation is around minimum standards and minimum wages for specific occupations or industries such as bus drivers and is is far more controversial, Dann said.
“The business community feels it’s a return to the award systems of the ’70s and ’80s. It’ll be far more contentious and I think everyone’s keeping their powder dry until that.”
Dann says it’s a little surprising that Labour is compromising on the 90-day trial period after they campaigned so strongly on removing it.
“Perhaps they could have pushed harder given how much unions, for example, dislike it as a blanket rule. But look, this is MMP. They could not get the numbers from New Zealand First, so they really didn’t have much choice on that,” he said.
Sweeping changes to employment law unveiled by the Government yesterday also include a return to guaranteed rest and meal breaks for most Kiwi workers.
There’ll also be extra measures to ensure more protection against discrimination aimed at union members.