13 Aug 2015

Zero hours contracts changes on cards

6:03 pm on 13 August 2015

New employment legislation, which includes provisions for zero hour contracts, has been tabled in Parliament.

It also extends paid parental leave provisions, introduces stiffer penalties for breaches of employment law, and extends accountability for breaches to people other than the employer.

Magnifying glass on job ads.

The new bill prohibits particular practices in zero-hour contracts. Photo: 123RF

In relation to zero-hour contracts, the bill prohibits certain practices.

Employers could not require employees to work over and above the contracted hours, unless employees have the option of refusing.

They would not be able cancel shifts without reasonable notice or compensation, or put unreasonable restrictions on employees working elsewhere.

Employers would also be prohibited from making unreasonable deductions from employees' wages.

The bill include a requirement that when parties agree to a set number of hours, that would have to be included in the employment contract.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse said zero hours contracts were not fair.

"The fundamental principle is that the employer wasn't being asked to commit but the employee was. We've always thought that that's been unfair and that will go under this bill when it's passed."

Mr Woodhouse said the bill strengthened the enforcement of employment standards, by including tougher sanctions for employers who intentionally breach the standards, increased tools for labour inspectors and clearer record keeping requirements.

"Protecting vulnerable workers and tackling harmful anti-competitive behaviour to create a level playing field for all businesses is a priority for the Government and this bill reflects that."

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