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90-day trial extension prompts debate

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, July 20 NZPA - The ideological battle over the proposed extension of the 90-day trial period for new employees continued in Parliament today.

The extension was one of a number of employment law changes announced at the National Party conference on the weekend.

Labour have said it will lead to people being fired without knowing the reason and will not help reduce unemployment.

Prime Minister John Key has said the changes were fair and balanced and good faith provisions still applied in the 90-day period.

"The concept of good faith requires an employer to be communicative, it is reasonable to expect that that includes giving a basic reason (for dismissal)."

However, there was no requirement for a formal written reason, he said.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the 90-day trial period was optional and people did not have to agree to it.

Doctors, nurses and teachers were among the professions unlikely to need a 90-day period because they were qualified and generally had experience.

People who were changing jobs were also unlikely to need it because they had relevant experience.

The original 90-day probation period, which was limited to employers with 19 or fewer workers, was a success, Ms Wilkinson said.

"It has given employees jobs they might otherwise not have got and it has given employers confidence to employ people and grow their business."

Remedies, mediation and protections were still available to those who use the trial period, Ms Wilkinson said.

"The idea of the 90-day trial was to give employers the confidence to take on new employees and to give employees the opportunity to get their foot in the door.

"If, for any reason, the employment relationship was not working, the relationship could be terminated without the need to go through the prescriptive dismissal process under the legislation," she said.

Labour's State Services spokesman Grant Robertson said doctors had already expressed concern that the 90-day period could compromise patient care and see trained staff move overseas for secure employment.

"It costs taxpayers $42,000 to train a police recruit. Under John Key's proposal that police officer could be fired for no good reason at a huge expense to taxpayers," Mr Robertson said.

Under questioning in Parliament today Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said he was not involved in discussions about the extension of the scheme.

He said his opposition to the 90-day probation period was well known.

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta said the threat of immediate dismissal would do nothing to help the 22,000 Maori currently unemployed.

The Maori Party was continuing to support a government about to remove the basic rights of Maori workers, she said.

Ms Wilkinson said it was not possible to say how many Maori had used the 90-day trial or were kept on after the trial.

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