21 Dec 2009

Unions, employers at odds over Holidays Act reform

8:30 am on 21 December 2009

Unions believe planned changes to the Holidays Act are blatantly skewed in favour of employers - but employers say change is needed because some workers have been gaming the law.

Following a review of the act, it's thought the Minister of Labour will standardise payment rates for all types of leave - annual, sick etc - and allow workers to cash in one week of annual leave and transfer public holidays.

But Helen Kelly, the president of the Council of Trade Unions and a member of the review panel, says the recommendations were made by employer representatives.

She's particularly concerned that an averaging formula could be used to calculate annual leave, which would affect anyone who gets a pay increase during the year, because they'd receive less than their normal pay rate while on holiday.

Employers, however, believe that anything is better than the current law, which badly needs to be simplified.

"Employers have had to labour under incredibly complex legislation for the last few years," says Phil O'Reilly of Business New Zealand, "which made the Holidays Act the most compliance-intensive piece of labour law in the country.

"Some workers regrettably were gaming that legislation because of its complexity in order to ensure that they got the best out of it."

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says she is still reviewing the proposed changes and the only decision reached so far is the option to trade in a fourth week of leave for cash.