Business braces for new employment rules under Labour government

The strong mandate for Labour means some significant employment law changes are coming but business groups are still hoping for a pragmatic approach to timing and implementation.

“There’s the five days additional days sick leave, there’s Matariki [the planned public holiday], there’s four weeks compulsory redundancy, there’s fair pay agreements and there’s the minimum wage,” said Employers and Manufacturers Association head of strategy and advocacy Alan McDonald.

“The key thing for us is that when you look at that line up, it’s costs … and particularly the costs for small business.”

“You have to be a bloody hero to be in small business at the moment.”

McDonald said he was hopeful there would be some consideration around the timing of all the changes given the extent to which many small businesses were struggling.

“We’ve got good strong relationships with [Grant] Robertson, {Phil] Twyford and [Andrew] Little as well as a few others,” he said.

“My plea would be to work with businesses … Now is not the time to add all these costs.”

The minimum wage was going to go up on April 1 but other issues like the push for Fair Pay Agreements would require more work, he said.

“The unions are looking for a stronger presence in the workplace but what does that look like. You’ve now got a whole raft of employers who have never dealt with unions.”

Regardless of what whether you thought unions were a good or bad thing, the question was: “how does it work”, he said.

On the positive side McDonald said he was hoping for a swift overhaul of the Holidays Act which had proved to be complex and unworkable for a vast majority of businesses.

“We’re kind of in violent agreement with the Government on getting it fixed.”

Then there was the Future of Work initiative which was still being worked through in partnership with the governmentand unions.

That was focused on “flexibility and adaptability,” he said.

“How you achieve that, we have slightly different views … but those sorts of things are quite positive.

“We want to keep that voice at the table and keep making sure its policy that is good and comes from that pragmatic point of view rather than something that is purely ideological.”

Meanwhile Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said he was hoping the “reward” for business would be a government that could get things done.

Labour had earned a lot of business votes in this election from those wanting to see it govern alone, he said.

“There wil be fears of a lurch to the left but I don’t see Labour doing that. I think they are going to respect the centre,” Barnett said.

“This is some sort of certainty. Now is the opportunity for them to show it, but show it in what they do, not what they talk about.”

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