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Health and Safety Changes In NZ 2016

By The Team | June 1, 2016

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment holds a crucial role in New Zealand’s Labour market and helps ensure that New Zealand has a strong economy. They supply information on the laws which govern the employment industry and keeping up-to-date with law updates is important for both employers and employees.

Below we have outlined some of the major changes for 2016.

 

Health and Safety at Work
This is the new law after the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 was repealed. You can view our earlier blog post on this here, which simplifies the changes making it easy for employers and employees alike to understand.

Asbestos Licences
If you work in construction, then this law is important for you as an employer or an employee. Commencing 4 April 2016, people who are in a position where they are:

  • Removing 10m2 or more of non-friable (bonded) asbestos
  • Removing any materials that contain asbestos in one job
  • Removing any amount of friable (easily crumbled) asbestos

Generally, the above will apply if you are working on a site where the premises were built before the late 1990’s, and especially if you are working on:

  • Removing soffits
  • External wall cladding
  • Corrugated roofing sheets
  • Textured ceilings
  • Replacing lino flooring

If you are removing any asbestos, or believe you may be working on a premise which may contain asbestos, from the 4 April 2016 you require a WorkSafe removal licence. The reason for this is current figures show over 170 New Zealander’s die each year from asbestos-related diseases, such as pleural plaque, lung cancer, asbestosis, plaque on the diaphragm, and mesothelioma. The new law will ensure workers have the skills and experience they need to keep themselves and others safe when coming into contact with asbestos.

So, what’s the process you need to follow now where asbestos is involved?

  • Familiarise yourself with the new law. This is absolutely crucial. If there is any part you don’t understand, contact WorkSafe and they can help. There is excellent information here.
  • Check which class of asbestos removal licence you require before applying for the licence, which you can do online.
  • Apply for a licence. To apply for a licence, click the “Apply for a Licence” button on the left of the class list page. Licence fees cost $490 incl GST for both Class A and B, however to add a supervisor you need to pay an additional $470 incl GST per supervisor.
  • At least five (5) days prior to commencing work on the asbestos site, you must notify WorkSafe. You can do so online. However, if there is asbestos which needs to be removed immediately, you can phone WorkSafe on 0800 030 040 to inform them, but you will also need to inform them in writing within 24 hours of notifying them by phone.

This may all seem very complicated, and maybe even seem unnecessary, but it has been put in place for a very important reason – to save lives.

ACC Levy Changes
You may have already noticed your vehicle licensing fees have reduced. This is because ACC have updated their systems, and now charge vehicle licensing fees based on the safety rating of individual vehicles.

However, there’s more good news! The residual levy, part of the work levy, is going to be entirely removed. Details have not yet been finalised, however the facts are that ACC has saved enough to fund the lifetime cost of every current ACC claim, therefore from 1 April 2016, businesses will pay lower work levies thanks to the residual levy being removed.

There is a disclaimer though – some businesses may incur an increase in ACC levies. If this is you, ACC will be in touch. If you haven’t heard from ACC yet, and think this may apply to you, have a look at the website from ACC.

Zero-hour Contracts

Basically, if an employer and an employee agree on a number of hours per week then this must be reflected in the Employment Agreement. However, there are also more requirements of the employer. These include:

  • Employers are no longer able to expect employees to work more than their agreed hours, without paying reasonable compensation for their time
  • Cancel any shifts without reasonable notice, or reasonable compensation, and this must be set out in the employment agreement
  • Make unreasonable deductions from wages
  • Unreasonably restrict an employees secondary employment

The reason for the Government putting a stop to Zero-hour contracts is to ensure all employee’s are treated fairly, and able to plan their financial and personal lives.

For further information, click here.

Food Safety

Food safety laws changed on 1 March 2016 for new businesses, but for existing businesses they will transition to the new laws between 2016 and 2019. The new law (Food Act 2014) replaces the old by introducing a sliding scale of risk, and focussing on the processes of food production rather than the premises where the food is made. This is to recognise that all food businesses are different.

Find out if your business is high or low risk. For more information, click here.

Employment Standards Legislation Bill

This included employment standard requirements to ensure all employees are treated fairly, such as requiring employers to:

  • Pay all employees at least minimum wage
  • Supply all employees with written employment agreements
  • Keep clearer records
  • Ensure employees are given their correct annual holiday entitlements

These changes are a lot to take in, so read, re-read, and access the additional pages if you need. Alternatively, give MBIE a call on 0800 20 90 20 and they can steer you in the right direction.