By: Amanda Douglas
The Labour-led Government has announced that the use of 90 day trial periods will be prohibited for any business that employs more than 19 employees.

Businesses that employ more than 19 employees will be able to use a probationary period as an alternative.  While an employee can still be dismissed following a probationary period, it will be harder than under a 90 day trial period as there are more controls in place.  Controls include the requirement to follow a fair process, and having a fair reason for dismissal that has been communicated to the employee. 

The Bill proposing the changes is expected to be introduced to Parliament on Monday 29 January 2018, with its first reading in February 2018.  More details about the changes will be known when the Bill is introduced.

The Bill will also restore guaranteed meal and rest breaks for employees.  The current law only provides a general right for employees to have a reasonable opportunity for rest, refreshment, and dealing with personal matters, with time and duration to be agreed between employer and employee.  Employers currently also have the ability to restrict an employee's entitlement to rest and meal breaks, or to compensate an employee for not taking a break, which is expected to be removed or controlled.  Exceptions to these requirements are expected to be included in the Bill.

The Bill will also introduce a series of changes around collective bargaining and agreements including powers for unions when engaging in collective bargaining with an employer.

What does this mean for employers?

These changes are not yet law, but it is expected that the new legislation will be implemented this year.  As a result, employers with more than 19 employees will need to review their employment agreements.  Depending on the final wording of the legislation, we recommend that employers introduce a robust probationary period clause if they wish to be able to have some ability to dismiss employees in the initial stages of employment.

An employer may also need to assess how rest and meal breaks are approached within their organisation, and ensure that they are compliant with laws. 
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