Four-minute round-up of 2016’s law changes

Here’s a summary of upcoming law changes that affect small businesses — check out which apply to you.

Health and safety at work

When: 4 April 2016

What: The new law says you need to do what’s “reasonably practicable” to manage health and safety risks at work. This means you’re expected to do what a reasonable person would do in your situation. It’s about taking responsibility for what you can control. You may find that it’s not as hard, expensive or time-consuming as you may think.

Why: The aim is to reduce the number of people killed or hurt at work. In New Zealand, on average 52 people die on the job each year and one in 10 is harmed.

More information:

Asbestos licences

When: 4 April 2016

What: If you work in construction on premises built before the late 1990s, you’ll probably work with materials that contain asbestos. Work that could bring you into contact with asbestos includes removing soffits, external wall cladding, corrugated roofing sheets and textured ceilings, and replacing lino flooring.

You’ll need a WorkSafe removal licence if you want to remove more than 10m sq of non-friable (bonded) asbestos or materials that contain asbestos in one job, or any amount of friable asbestos.

Why: New health and safety laws will help to make sure workers coming in to contact with asbestos have the skills and experience they need to keep themselves, and others, safe. At present more than 170 Kiwis die each year from asbestos-related diseases.

More information:

Asbestos information (external link) — WorkSafe

ACC levy changes

When: 2016/17

What: The ACC portion of your vehicle registration is due to fall again to an average of $130. And part of the work levy known as the residual levy is also to be removed entirely. Details have yet to be finalised.

Why: We all used to pay the same ACC levy no matter what vehicle we owned. Last year ACC introduced a ratings system, based on how well a vehicle protected passengers and others on the road if involved in a crash. As a result, your vehicle’s levy will be based on an assessment of its risk.

For the residual levy, ACC has collected––and saved––enough to fund the lifetime cost of every current ACC claim. From 1 April 2016, most businesses will pay lower work levies due to the residual levy being removed and an average drop in the work levy rate. Levies will go up for a small number of businesses, but we’ll be in touch with those to explain why. Find out more on the Shape Your ACC website (external link) .

More information:

Paid parental leave

When: Extension to 18 weeks — 1 April 2016
Other changes — 1 April 2016, subject to the Employment Standards Legislation Bill being passed.

What: Paid parental leave will go up from 16 weeks to 18 weeks. There are also planned changes to the scheme to better reflect the diversity of modern work and family arrangements. The changes will also make it easier for parents to stay connected to the workforce. It’s planned that parental leave payments will be extended to more workers, including:

  • casual and seasonal workers
  • those with more than one employer
  • those who have recently changed jobs
  • people who become the permanent carer of a child under the age of six, eg foster parents.

Parents of premature babies will also receive parental leave payments for longer.

Why: The Government wants to make it easier for parents and permanent carers to take more time off work to spend with the new addition to their family. Current rules prevent a person on parental leave from coming back to work for training or planning days, so this will also change to allow more flexibility.

More information:

Zero-hour contracts

When: 1 April 2016, subject to the Employment Standards Legislation Bill being passed.

What: Planned changes will mean that, when hiring, employers must guarantee to give employees agreed hours of work.

Also, employers won’t be allowed to:

  • expect employees to be available to work with no guarantee of hours without paying reasonable compensation
  • cancel a shift without giving employees reasonable notice or reasonable compensation, both of which must be set out in an employment agreement
  • make unreasonable deductions from wages
  • unreasonably restrict an employee’s secondary employment.

Why: The Government wants to prevent unfair employment practices. Zero-hour contracts make it difficult for employees to plan their financial and personal lives.

More information:

Enforcement of employment standards

When: 1 April 2016, subject to the Employment Standards Legislation Bill being passed.

What: Planned changes will strengthen the enforcement of minimum employment standards, eg minimum wage and holidays entitlements. These include a new infringement notice regime, clearer record-keeping requirements, and tougher sanctions for the most serious breaches, such as exploitation.

Why: To help protect vulnerable workers and to make sure workplaces are fair and competitive.

More information:

Strengthening enforcement of employment standards (external link) — MBIE

When: 1 March 2016 for new food businesses. Existing food businesses will transition to the rules between 2016 and 2019.

What: The Food Act 2014 promotes food safety by focusing on the processes of food production rather than the premises where it’s made. It has a sliding scale of risk –– businesses with a higher risk when it comes to food safety will operate under stricter requirements.

Why: The old law had a one-size-fits-all approach to food safety. The new law recognises that each business is different. So, for example, a corner dairy operator who reheats meat pies won’t be treated in the same way as the pie manufacturer. The aim is to further improve New Zealand’s food safety measures.

More information:

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