If you are an employer, you will be aware that the new government has announced major reforms to employment laws, including the significant rollback of laws brought in under the previous government.
One of the most significant changes is the removal of the right to use trial periods for businesses with 20 or more employees.
Under the Employment Relations Act 2000, as it currently stands, any employer can implement a 90-day trial period for new employees, as long as it is agreed to by the employee before they commence their employment.
Currently, the act states that where a 90-day trial period has been agreed to by the employee, the employee has no right to bring a personal grievance claim if they are dismissed within the trial period. This is a considerable contrast to the strict rules that apply to the dismissal of employees in the absence of a trial period.
Accordingly, if you own and run a small business (i.e., less than 20 employees) you can protect your business from an unjustified dismissal action when taking on new employees. Trial periods allow small businesses to ‘give employees a go’ with the comfort of knowing that if they dismiss the employee during that trial period, they are effectively immune from the otherwise strict laws relating to dismissal.
However, under the new legislation, larger businesses (i.e., 20 or more employees) will be returned to the previous position which did not allow trial periods. This means that any dismissal must be justifiable, regardless of how long the employee has been at the company. If you are an employer in a business of this size, you will need to be more careful about who you choose to employ because your ability to dismiss them will be restricted.
The aim of the legislation is to “restore key minimum standards and protections for employees,” according to Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, the MP responsible for the bill. This is reflective of the sentiment of the bill as a whole, which also introduces a number of changes concerning collective bargaining and union rights and powers.
Other changes expected to come from the reform include the reinstatement of statutory breaks. Under the current law, employees are entitled to rest breaks and meal breaks as frequently and at a time that is appropriate for the duration of the employee’s work period. The new legislation will see a reduction in the discretion afforded to employers.
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John is the firm’s specialist Litigator. He has more than 30 years of experience in this field and practices in the areas of Civil and Commercial Litigation, Property Litigation, Estate and Trust Litigation, Employment Law (including Personal Grievances) and Debt Collection.
This article is brief and general in nature. You should not treat this article as legal advice and should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this article. Armstrong Murray accepts no liability for losses suffered by any person or organisation who may rely directly or indirectly on this article.