In this edition we look at upcoming changes to employment law which may affect your business, the new initiative by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for small-to-medium sized businesses, and the Government’s focus on unfair commercial practices.


The passing of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill means a number of key changes to employment law will come into effect on 6 May 2019.

  • Rest and meal breaks – employers will need to offer set meal breaks.  These meal breaks have specific rules with respect to length and timing.
  • 90-day trial periods – an employer can only rely on a 90-day trial period provision if it has less than 20 employees.  Employers with 20 or more employees cannot rely on a 90-day trial period provision, however can use a probationary period for assessing a new employee’s skills.
  • Vulnerable Industry employees – employees in certain industries including catering and cleaning have the right to have their contract transferred to a new employer if the employing business is restructured.

If you have not done so already, we recommend making a plan on how your members will comply with these employment law changes.  Please contact us if you would like more information on the changes to employment law.  We can provide a new or updated template employment agreement which complies with the employment law changes.


The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) will invest $22 million over the next five years into an incentive programme created to assist small-to-medium sized businesses reduce workplace injuries.  The programme includes two types of assistance:

  • Workplace injury prevention grants – These grants provide funding for organisations to help solve workplace health and safety problems which may affect multiple businesses in an industry or supply chain.
  • Workplace injury prevention subsidies – Subsidies are available to help small-to-medium businesses access services and other support which are known to improve workplace health and safety including training courses, equipment, and advisory services.

Applications for grants opened in February 2019.  An application must describe the health and safety benefits of the programme, identify the organisations who will collaborate on the programme, outline the programme using SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) objectives with a level of risk assessment, detail budgets and milestones, and identify how the programme will be managed.

Applications for subsidies opened in February 2019.  This first round of subsidies is available to the construction, and healthcare and social assistance sectors.  Both these sectors have workplaces where there are high risks of injury.  Subsidies for businesses and workplaces in other sectors will be offered later this year.

Please contact us if you have any questions on ACC’s initiative or would like assistance with making an application for a grant or subsidy.


The Government is currently considering whether the law requires additional protection for consumers and small businesses from unfair commercial practices.  The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) released a Discussion Paper in December 2018 calling for public feedback on how to tackle unfair commercial practices, in particular, unfair contracts and conduct.  Unfair contracts include the use of one-sided contract terms.  Unfair conduct includes the use of pressure tactics and deception.

There are already a range of protections against unfair commercial practices contained in statutes such as the Fair Trading Act 1986 and the Commerce Act 1986.  However, the purpose of the Discussion Paper is to determine whether or not there are any gaps in existing legislation.

A recent survey conducted by MBIE found that despite existing legislative protections, 47% of small businesses interviewed had experienced unfair conduct and 45% had experienced unfair contract terms while in business.  Some businesses are suffering from larger businesses not complying with the terms of contracts, placing significant risk onto the smaller businesses, and increasing the price of goods or services under the contract.  The survey also found that there has been an evident increase in businesses using unfair practices targeted to vulnerable consumers in shopping malls, homes, and mental health units.

MBIE is considering options to:

  • introduce a prohibition against unconscionable, oppressive, or unfair conduct; and
  • extend existing protections against unfair contract terms in standard consumer contracts to also protect businesses.

Submissions on the Discussion Paper closed in February 2019.  MBIE is currently reviewing the feedback received and will determine whether action by the Government is required.  We will keep you updated as new information comes to hand.  Please contact us if you would like more information on the Discussion Paper.  We are happy to review and advise on any commercial contracts.

Tom Mahony / Partner
P: 04 974 4703
Harry Rattray / Associate
P: 04 974 4340

Disclaimer:  The information contained in this newsletter is provided for information purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any particular matter.