By: Amanda Douglas
Published: 29/08/2016
Changes to employment law came into force in April of this year.  In light of these changes, employers may be required to update their employment agreements.  Employers will have until 1 April 2017 to ensure their existing employment agreements are compliant with the new laws.
 
Hours of work
 
All employment agreements, whether collective or individual, need to specify the number of guaranteed hours that an employee will work.  The employment agreement will also need to specify the days of the week on which the work will be performed, the start and finish times of work, and any flexibility around these provisions.  Parties to the employment agreement do not need to agree on all the hours which the employee will work, but where there is agreement, this should be recorded in the employment agreement or, at the least, the employment agreement should provide an indication of the arrangements relating to the employee's working times.
 
Availability to work
 
If an employer requires employees to be on call, or otherwise available to work, an employer will need to consider whether these arrangements are compliant with the new provisions of the Act, which now prohibit an employer from requiring employees to be available, unless certain criteria are met.  This includes providing the employee with guaranteed hours of work.  If an employee is required to be available to work and cannot decline the work, an availability provision will need to be included in the employment agreement.
 
An availability provision should only be included in an employment agreement where the employer has 'genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds' to include the provision, and the employee is compensated for making him or herself available.  Determining what is reasonable grounds and what is reasonable compensation in this context may be difficult, but the Act does deliver some guidance on this.
 
If there is no availability provision in the employment agreement, an employer cannot adversely treat an employee for refusing to perform work that is additional to their agreed hours. 
 

Shift work
 
Employers, who have employees that do shift work, may need to make amendments to employment agreements to provide for when, and what happens if, an employer cancels a shift.  The Act now requires that the employment agreement specifies a reasonable period of notice to give an employee before the cancellation of a shift, along with the amount of compensation payable to the employee if the specified period of notice is not given to the employee.
 
If an employer does not update their employment agreements in light of this, when a shift is cancelled, the employee will be entitled to what they would have earned working the shift, regardless of the amount of notice given.
 
Secondary employment
 
In addition, an employer can no longer prohibit an employee from having other employment unless certain conditions are met.  To do so, an employer will need to have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for including such a clause, and these reasons will need to be clearly stated in the employment agreement.
 
Deductions
 
The Wages Protection Act 1983 has also been amended to prevent employers from making 'unreasonable deductions' from an employee's wages.  In light of this, an employer may need to review their employment agreements to ensure that the ability to make deductions from employees' wages is recorded in a compliant way.
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