Over The Fence – April 2019


March 28 2019


Minimum wage review 2019

The government reviews the minimum wage each year.

On 1 April 2019 the adult minimum wage will increase from $16.50/hour to $17.70/hour. The starting out and training minimum wage will increase from $13.20/hour to $14.16/hour. The government has also set indicative rates of $18.90/hour from 1 April 2020 and to $20.00/hour from 1 April 2021. These rates will be subject to each year’s annual review

We recommend you review all wage and salary structures to ensure your employees are paid at least the minimum wage at all times for hours worked. 

It is well-known that work required on the farm fluctuates throughout the year. You must ensure that your employees are receiving at least the applicable minimum wage rate for any hours worked at all times. This is the case even when your employees are paid a salary. This may mean your employee’s pay needs to be topped up at certain times of the year to ensure they are paid at least the applicable minimum wage for the hours worked.

Remember non-cash benefits, such as the provision of accommodation on the farm, that form part of an employee’s employment are to be included and taxed appropriately.

Keeping and maintaining accurate time and wage records is vitally important and a legal requirement of employers.

Employment law changes ahead

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018: From 1 April 2019 this legislation will impose new obligations on employers under three pieces of employment legislation and the Human Rights Act 1993.

Employers will be required to pay up to 10 days/year of paid domestic violence leave. Employees may take this leave as needed in order to deal with the effects of domestic violence – similar to existing sick and bereavement leave provisions. 

This paid domestic violence leave is available after six months’ continuous employment to an employee if they are the person affected by domestic violence. This is regardless of how long ago the domestic violence occurred, and even if it occurred before the person became an employee.

A person is affected by domestic violence if:

  • They are a person against whom another person inflicts or has inflicted domestic violence, and/or
  • A person with whom there ordinarily or periodically resides a child against whom any other person inflicts or has inflicted domestic violence. 

Also an employee affected by domestic violence is entitled to seek flexible working arrangements for a short-term period of no more than two months. A request must be in writing and their employer must deal with it as soon as possible, but no later than 10 working days after receiving the request.

Rest and meal breaks: From 6 May 2019, employees’ rest and meal breaks must be at exact intervals prescribed by the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 – unless both parties have agreed they may be taken at different times.

The minimum entitlement varies depending on total hour work periods. For example, if working a shift of between four and six hours, an employee is entitled to a paid one 10-minute rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break. Those breaks must be taken at one-third and two-thirds of the way through the work period, unless the parties have agreed they may be taken at a different time.

Restriction on the use of 90-day trial periods: A trial period allows employers to dismiss an employee within a 90-day period without being subject to a claim of unjustified dismissal.

From 6 May 2019, 90-day trial periods will only be available to employers with fewer than 20 employees (19 or less). Other requirements remain such as the employee must have a written employment agreement containing a valid trial period provision; the employee must also not have previously worked for the employer.

These are some significant changes to our employment laws (and not all are mentioned here). If you need further information or would like to discuss these matters with us please do be in touch.

Crackdown on cattle rustling 

The Crimes Amendment Bill will, amongst other things, introduce two new offences for livestock rustling:

  • Theft of livestock – or any other animal including beehives and farm dogs – becomes an offence liable for up to seven years’ imprisonment, and
  • Unlawful entry on agricultural land with the intent to steal livestock or to act unlawfully against specified things such as buildings or machinery on that land becomes an offence liable for up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The Bill is yet to receive Royal Assent. We will have more information for you in the next edition of Rural eSpeaking.


* The Holidays Act 2003, Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.


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