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Bill Bevan: Changes to employment law - 5 August

Last week we looked at some of the recent changes announced by the government affecting workers rights. These included an ability to extend the 90 day "trial period" to all new employees and the power to require medical certificates for all sick leave.

An additional new proposal that the government wants to introduce is the ability to allow workers to "sell back" one week of their statutory annual leave entitlement. What's that all about?

Selling back one week of statutory annual leave.
* The last Labour government extended statutory annual leave for workers from 3 to 4 weeks per year.
* All employees receive his 4 weeks leave regardless of what it says in their employment contract.
* Under the law as it currently is, employers and employees can't "contract out" of this statutory entitlement even if both parties want to.
* The National government proposes to change this so that if an employee wants to sell one of their four weeks annual leave back to their employer, they can.
* The government says this new proposal will only be possible at the request of the employee and not as part of any salary negotiations.

Q: So new employees must still be given the statutory 4 weeks in their contract ?
An employer can't require an employee to accept only 3 weeks leave in their contract if they are offering a new position to a job applicant.
Even after the employee has been hired, the boss can't insist on them taking only 3 weeks leave.
The request has to come from the worker.

Q: Does the boss have to agree to the request?
No&'s a two way process and requires agreement from both parties to the employment contract.

Q: If an employee agrees to sell back one of their holiday weeks, does that effect the following years entitlements ?
No, the employee will be entitled to 4 weeks leave in subsequent years.
Any "buy back" request would have to be made in each successive year if the worker only wants to take 3 weeks leave each year and the boss would also have to agree to this each year ?

Q: How much will an employee get for their forgone weeks leave?
Under the proposed formula, the worker who sells back their holidays, effectively gets double pay for working the time that is sold back.

Q: Can they sell more than a week of their 4 weeks leave ?
No&the proposal is only for "up to 1 weeks statutory annual leave". Annual leave in addition to statutory leave could be sold back though.

Q: Can workers request this buy back deal now ?
No&.legislation to introduce the changes has yet to be introduced into Parliament. Once this happens it will be referred to select committee for public submissions. It wont be until next year that this new proposal will kick in.Q: What happens if a worker doesn't take their 3 weeks leaves and has worked only two weeks in the last 3 years &..Do they lose that leave ?
Statutory leave accrues&.so that if a worker took only two of their four weeks leave&..that carries over leave into the following year. Over three years the worker would have accrued 6 weeks leave in addition to the current annual entitlement.