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Changes to the Employment Relations Act while the Epidemic Notice is in place

The government has decided that some rules for collective bargaining will be temporarily modified in the Employment Relations Act while the current Epidemic Notice is in place.

These changes extend timeframes involved in collective bargaining that would otherwise apply, and allow unions to notify an alternative ratification process if the previous ratification process is now impracticable (e.g. in person meetings).

The changes have been made by Order in Council under the Epidemic Preparedness Act and come into force on Thursday 16 April.

The Act has been temporarily changed to:

  • modify the maximum time frames for an employer to notify their employees who are in work and covered by collective bargaining that has been initiated, to exclude the duration of the Epidemic Notice (modifying section 43).
  • modify the maximum time frames for an employer to seek consolidation of notices to initiate collective bargaining (40 days), and for unions to respond to an attempted consolidation (30 days), to exclude the duration of the Epidemic Notice (modifying section 50).
  • where collective agreements would have otherwise expired, but are still in force for 12 months after expiry, modify the 12-month period to exclude any period covered by the Epidemic Notice if the 12-month period would otherwise end while the Epidemic Notice is in force or up to three months after it expires or is revoked (modifying section 53).
  • allow the union to notify the other intended party or parties to a collective agreement of a new ratification procedure to ratify the collective agreement (e.g., online balloting, videoconferencing or teleconferencing) if a union has committed at the outset of collective bargaining to a ratification procedure that is no longer practicable (e.g. in-person ratification meetings) (modifying section 51).