2nd August, 2018

The 3 big workplace changes on the horizon for SMEs

The change in government has brought a new focus on workplace arrangements and things are changing – here are the top three which could impact your business.

Many of the changes being brought in relate to union rights, which may not have much of an impact on the SME community but there are some things you should be on the lookout for.

There have been things proposed in legislation, but they haven’t gone through quite yet – so while there’s a high chance these new changes will pass they won’t be in law for months yet.

The Government has said these changes will come into law four months after the law is passed.

We initially estimated that might be October this year, however that opportunity has passed, we think maybe April next year.

In the meantime, the law is the same, so no need to change anything.

Here are the three big changes on the horizon which could impact your business:

1. 90 day trial periods

If you employ 19 or fewer employees, you can still use 90-day trial periods the same way you’ve been doing them.

But, you still need to approach trial periods with some semblance of professionalism and in Good Faith.

For example, to have a valid trial period in place you must:

  • Make sure the Employment Agreement (EA) has a clause about trial periods, and this clause is worded to align with the legislation
  • Make sure the EA is signed before the employee’s first day of work – not on the day
  • Make sure the worker hasn’t worked for you before, and they have a reasonable period of time to review the agreement and seek advice

If your company has more than 19 employees, the 90-day trial periods are gone, if the legislation passes untouched.

There are moves afoot to return to probation periods, so watch this space.

But whether you’re a big employer or a smaller one, the 90-day trial period or probation period should be more of a last resort.

After all, if you’re letting somebody go before three months, something’s gone wrong.

Either you’ve made a poor choice in talent selection or the employee has basically been left in the dark when they start work, leading them to feel isolated.

To avoid this, make sure you have a robust onboarding process in place.

This includes:

  • Setting out the exact expectations on them when they start the job, so they know what they should be doing
  • Letting them know about the functional aspects of the workplace (i.e where the toilets are, when breaks are)
  • Assigning a mentor/buddy to allow them to have a connection report outside their direct boss – somebody to talk to who isn’t responsible for hiring or firing them

WATCH: More on the big HR law changes on the way

2. Rest and meal breaks

Over the years, rest and meal breaks have swung between the overly prescribed to a loose policy.

The current legislation will take us back to a more prescribed vision of how breaks should be taken, with the government seeking to define the length of breaks that must be offered after periods of continuous work.

So, you need to make sure you’re aware of the new laws around meal breaks and rest breaks, and apply them accordingly.

3. A return to reinstatement as the primary remedy from a PG

This one’s a bit contentious.

If an employee has been dismissed for a legitimate reason but the exact process for dismissal wasn’t followed, then the employee can file a PG.

If the current legislation passes, then an employee will be able to raise under their grievance motion that they want to return to the workplace.

There is allowance for the Employment Relations Authority to determine if that’s reasonable, the return of an employee to the workplace may affect other employees’ health and safety (depending on the reason for dismissal).

In reality it is just used to ratchet up a settlement payments.

In effect, all this piece of law does is allow a person to increase the amount they ask for in terms of a settlement discussions – as its unlikely that the two parties will have a great working relationship in the future (something was obviously broken if it got to this point).

The key here is to make sure it doesn’t get to the personal grievance stage by making sure you follow all the rules and guidelines when it comes to dismissal.

This article is provided courtesy of MyHR. MyHR is your complete HR agency, with intuitive HR software to provide the right set of tools for every employment situation and our experienced team of HR consultants to ensure you’re always in control. It’s the new way to experience HR. Visit to find out more.