31 Oct 2014

Government considers holiday changes

5:45 am on 31 October 2014

The ink is only just dry on the controversial Employment Relations Amendment Bill and the Government's next focus is changes to the way holiday pay and annual leave are calculated.

The ERA legislation squeaked through its final reading last night, making extensive changes to collective agreements, the 90-day trial period, strike action, and rest and meal breaks.

The Government is considering changes over annual leave and holiday pay.

The Government is considering changes over annual leave and holiday pay. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The President of the Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, said the Government had passed a law that its own Cabinet papers said would allow workers to be paid less.

She said National wants a low-wage economy, but it was not saying so publicly.

"They dress all of this stuff up and nobody is able to get behind that and say well, hang on a second, this is just a huge contradiction in terms of what you are doing.

"These labour laws will put New Zealand at the extreme end of OECD protections for working people, they are dramatic changes to what is the acceptable norm in democratic countries."

But the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Woodhouse, said the changes were actually quite moderate.

"What we are looking for is sensible, flexible, supportive policies that create an employment relations framework that allows productive and efficient workplaces and that's what I think the changes do."

Mr Woodhouse said he had heard that employers were concerned about some aspects of the Holidays Act.

"There's been some longstanding concerns about the complexities of the calculations of relevant daily pay, and as a former CEO of a hospital which employed a lot of workers on night shift and at weekend, I understand that.

"What we need to do is have a look at our legislative priorities and what we campaigned on and make them our first order priorities."

The Manager of Employment Relations at Business New Zealand, Paul Mackay, said changes were necessary as people no longer all worked nine to five, Monday to Friday.

"If you take a person working the classic 12 hours shift, they will work 36 hours one week and then 48 the next.

"Now if you pay them on an hourly basis they will get 36 hours pay one week and 48 hours the next, and if you pay them on a salaried basis of course there's an average 42 hours per week - but what's a week then when you take leave? Is the week three days or is the week four days?"

Mr Mackay says a different calculation was needed to reflect the reality of that work.

Mr Woodhouse said he wanted to listen to both employers and unions about how the employment relations environment could be improved.

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