Health and Safety at Work
A Bill is currently before Parliament which has the potential to be the most significant change in our workplace health and safety system since the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 was introduced over 20 years ago. The new Law is expected to come into force towards the end of this year. The major change being proposed to the law is that health and safety will be the responsibility of more people in the workplace through the introduction of a “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” (or a PCBU). The new Act proposes to place positive obligations on such individuals to ensure the health and safety of not only employees but other people coming into contact with your business. Take, for example, a building site. A PCBU could include the materials supplier, tradesperson, architect, developer, contractor, and project manager. All of these roles would have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workplace.
The new Law makes another more subtle, but equally as significant, change by focusing on “risks” rather than just “hazards”. Risks can vary from stress or fatigue to a worker simply not following directions and PCBU’s have positive obligations to prevent such risks.
The new Law also proposes substantially heavier penalties for those found to be in breach of the Act. The most severe penalty is a maximum fine of $3,000,000.00 for companies, and $600,000.00 and/or five years imprisonment for an individual, found liable for reckless conduct. These penalties are obviously significant for you and your business.
The processes that you and your business put in place now are therefore important steps to take in order to ensure you are not “caught out” by these new changes.
Please contact one of our employment specialists for further information or if you wish to discuss how the new Law may affect you and your business.
As most of those with a Trust will be aware, gift duty was abolished in October 2011. This means that a gifting program can now be completed in "one hit". There are issues that you must consider before gifting in one hit such as whether there are any issues with creditors, and the ability to show solvency at the time the asset is moved and gifted into the trust. In addition, the Court of Appeal has recently confirmed a Ministry of Social Development (MSD) challenge to existing gifting programmes which have been completed at the rate of $27,000.00 per individual per year. The Court found that the MSD rules and regulations allow for a gift of $27,000.00 per couple, so at a rate of $13,500.00 each per year, rather than at $27,000.00 each, which has been the previous rate of gift.
The Law Commission is recommending some changes to the Trustee Act 1956. This proposed new law will set out the core characteristics of trusts and the duties of trustees. The Law Commission has also set out to rectify the use of a trust to keep a former partner from their share of assets made during the relationship. It recommends that the Court be able to have the power to transfer the trust assets to compensate the disadvantaged party. The Law Commission has also recommended that a trust be able to exist for 150 years rather than the current 80 years.
Please contact one of our trust teams for further information or if you wish to discuss how these proposals may affect you.
Social Media and Employment
Click on this link to see our social media and employment article
Looking at the year ahead, we’re likely to see further reforms to the Employment Relations Act 2000, with the proposed changes anticipated to come into effect in the second half of the year.One area of the proposed to further clarify Part 6A of the Act, which deals with ‘vulnerable workers’ whose work is affected by restructuring. The proposed changes include:
Changes ahead for the Employment Relations Act 2000
Exempting incoming employers with fewer than 20 employees from complying with Part 6A
Requiring outgoing employers to forward individual employee information to the incoming employer
Detailing a process to help outgoing and incoming employers to agree how to apportion accrued service-related entitlements of employees, and
Adding additional penalties and compliance orders for non-compliance with Part 6A.
Changes ahead for the Employment Relations Act 2000
Amendments to the collective bargaining regime are also expected, including changes to:
Empower the Employment Relations Authority to declare the end of collective bargaining in certain circumstances
Allow employers to opt-out of multi-employer bargaining
Allow partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action, and
Remove the requirement for non-union members to be employed under the terms and conditions of a collective agreement (where one is in force which covers their work) for the first 30 days of employment.
Other changes include amending the duty of good faith in section 4 to align it more closely with the privacy principles in the Privacy Act 1983, and extending the right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees, from their first day of employment.
More details on the proposed changes can be found at www.dol.govt.nz
Changes in Family Law
Sweeping changes to the Family Court system will silence children, impose financial barriers on parents and lead to "bloody" legal battles and a spike in domestic violence, welfare agencies and experts fear.
To read more: Changes to New Zealand Family Court