Govt creates taskforce to recommend changes to Holidays Act

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo by Lynn Grieveson

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced a new taskforce to recommend changes to the Holidays Act 2003 in a bid to unravel the legislation's complexity to cope with a fast-changing labour market.

Lees-Galloway said the taskforce will bring together government, business and workers to recommend changes to the act by mid-2019. Business has long lobbied for changes, arguing its complexity costs time and money, in particular with the rising number of part-time and casual workers. Law firm Simpson Grierson has previously said the legislation was originally drafted in 1981 "at a time when most businesses were closed on weekends and a 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday work week was the norm".

"There’s been enormous change in our labour market over the past 15 years and it’s clear we need to look at the Holidays Act with a fresh pair of eyes and ensure it is fit for modern workplaces and new working arrangements," said Lees-Galloway. “With an increasing variety of work patterns and pay arrangements, the legislative requirements of the act are proving difficult and costly for employers to apply and employees are not receiving their full entitlements."

As a result, the legislation "needs to be straightforward and simple to implement," he said.

Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment indicates between July 2012 and March 2018, 51 employers have paid arrears to 18,100 workers totalling $6.14 million due to noncompliance with the act. The data doesn't include data from the New Zealand Police. According to MBIE, the police have made six arrears payments totalling $39 million, and have more payments to come as they await the implementation of their new compliant payroll system.

The working group will be chaired by Gordon Anderson, a law professor at Victoria University with extensive experience in employment law, both as an academic and as a barrister.

“I expect this group to consult widely to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues with the current legislation, and work closely with technical experts such as payroll and other business service providers to assist with the design and testing of policy options to ensure they will work well in practice," said Lees-Galloway.