Kiwis have a deep sense of justice and fairness. It is part of our culture and the reality of living in a giant village. Amongst other things, this means having a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. That means receiving all of your pay, including all of your holiday leave entitlements.
The holiday payroll botch-up is far-reaching and is costing working people over $1 million per day. It is clear that urgent action is required to address this problem and to remove the legal restraints that would otherwise prevent working people from recovering the money that is owed to them under the Holidays Act 2003.
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has been proactive and provided the Government with a solution to this problem. I was one of the lawyers who worked on the Holiday Leave Protection Bill, which would fix the problem with the current limitation period that applies to recovering money for lost holiday leave under the Holidays Act 2013.
The Bill is an omnibus Bill, which means that it amends more than one piece of legislation to achieve a common policy. In this case, it amends:
• The Limitation Act 2010, so that there is an exception to the default 6 year limit on “money claims” – the time period would instead be set at 6 years earlier than the day after the date that the Bill becomes law;
• The Holidays Act 2013, so that employers would need to retain payroll information for at least 12 years (including information that was created six years earlier than the day after the Bill comes into force); and
• The Employment Relations Act 2000, so that Labour Inspectors would also be able to pursue claims for unpaid holiday leave for the same time period as above.
This Bill needs to be passed urgently so that working people do not keep losing millions of dollars.
Urgency can (and has) been used by a Minister at any time. We have seen this Government do so for quite controversial reasons including:
• The Employment Relations Amendment Bill that introduced the 90 day probation period for new employees, which NZ Treasury-commissioned research has recently found to be ineffective; and
• The Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill, which cut some aspects of the KiwiSaver scheme – including holding employer contributions at 2% (rather than increasing up to 4%).
Neither of those policies can realistically be described as “urgent” but fixing the holiday leave botch-up clearly is. Every day makes a difference.
Being the Government in a Western, democratic nation like New Zealand means taking responsibility and making choices – not just for the few – but for the many. In this case, there are many hard working New Zealanders who need the Government to act quickly. Time for the Government to cut the Parliamentary recess short and get this Bill passed.
You can encourage John Key’s Government to pass the Bill by signing this petition.
[Eva Hartshorn-Sanders is a public and employment lawyer at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and currently sits as an advisory board member on the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme Advisory Board and is a member of the NZCTU’s Legal Group. She is one of the lawyers who drafted the Holiday Leave Protection Bill.]