Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Breakfast with Wayne - debating the 90-day Probationary Employment Bill

I finished my beauty sleep early this morning to have breakfast with Sue Bradford, Ruth Dyson, Wayne Mapp, Rodney Hide and about a hundred or so others. The event was a debate on Wayne Mapp's 90-day Probationary Employment Bill, for which Ruth Dyson argued we should listen to the facts.

Unfortunately, as an employment lawyer in the audience quickly showed, not all the facts are on Ruth's side.

The fact is that every business and every entrepreneur survives by taking a risk; by seeing a new vision or a new idea, assessing it, and then backing their judgement. The fact is that present employment law does not favour taking risks in whom employers choose to hire, because as too many Employment Court decisions have shown, letting an unsuitable employee go is a about as easy as getting Helen Clark to admit she shouldn't have spent taxpayers' money on her Pledge Card -- and can be almost as expensive a process.

The fact is that in in the present legal environment every employer who has to choose between someone well-qualified but dull and someone else less-qualified and less-experienced but perhaps a little sharper is more likely to see the nice-but-dull candidate signing the Employment Contract, and the more 'risky' candidate being shown the door. Present law favours nice-but-dull, and lowers the boom on candidates who need a risk taken on them. Those more risky candidates are finding it hard to get a toe on the employment ladder, and the fact is that present employment law is helping to making that happen.

We all suffer by that -- employers, manufacturers, employees and consumers -- but there is one group who suffer most, and despite the great boon this bill would offer them, they are not going to be listening to 'nice but dull' Wayne promoting it.

Who stands to benefit most? Let's have a look. Government figures show an unemployment rate of only 3.6%. At the same time, there are nearly 300,000 people are either on a benefit or otherwise unemployable. Whatever your view on the facts of economic growth under Labour or the truth of those particular figures, there is one figure that no one is challenging: 27% of young Maori are unemployed -- they are under-skilled, under-experienced, under-qualified (and in too many cases criminally-qualified) -- they are the very group of people who most need employers to be free to take a chance on them, and the very group that present employment law is helping keep unemployed. But they aren't listening to Wayne.

There's someone who might listen to Wayne though who could make a tangible difference. The Maori Party could with some justice call present employment law racist -- and in this case they might actually be right. It's targeted against the very group the Maori Party claim to represent. It makes life worse for them. Wayne Mapp's Bill would do more for under-skilled and under-qualified young Maori than any hundred government programmes aimed at closing their gaps -- it would give them the chance at real employment, and the chance for many of them to turn their lives around.

For this Bill to pass it will need to the Maori Party's vote. Let's hope they consider who stands to benefit most from it.

LINK: Probationary emplyment bill far from redundant - Susan-Jane Davies, EMA

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Law, Economics


  1. Nah,
    Every new political party needs a sour, bitter, angry and disenfranchised underclass to be its activist group if it is ever going to make it into the big time.

  2. Spot on, anon. Even Pita Sharples seems to have changed his mind. Actually creating opportunities for Maori would mean they couldn't default to victim status whenever it suits.
    Peter, Were any Maori employers there? Any viewpoint expressed?

  3. Breakfast with Sue Bradford & Ruth Dyson? And you didn't choke on your cornies?!

    I tend to agree with both anon & Lindsay. Talk's cheap - especially from politicians - and even taking into account Tariana Turia's speech to this yr's Act conf stating that (and I'm paraphrasing) welfare was detrimental to Maori.

    I might be less skeptical when she and Sharples actually *do* something, but I'm not holding my breath. Specially as they're part of the govt.

    Incidentally, were they there, PC?

  4. Ah, so cynical in ones so young. :-)

    "Were any Maori employers there? Any viewpoint expressed?"

    If there were, they were very quiet about it.

  5. "Incidentally, were they there, PC?"

    Nope, just the four pollies, all of whom headed for the planes as soon as breakfast was over.

    BTW, Sue Bradford got in a good dig as she left. Leaving just as Dyson got up to close, Dyson noticed her and told the crowd she and Bradford were on the same plane. "But I'm driving myself," shot back Bradford.

    And Rodney got in a few good digs, including beginning his speech by thanking all the taxpayers there for paying all four of the MPs wages, and for Labour's election spending.

    Former Labour Party preident Dyson nearly choked on her orange juice. :-)

  6. *Nearly* choked? Bugger.

  7. Anon,

    Do you include the Libertarianz in your comments?

  8. Nearly all companies have the 90 day probationary period written into employee contracts - all corporates do, and in my recent research I have discovered most 'blue collar' businesses do as well - so why enshrine it into law and tie employers hands?

    Why would a libertarian support such a thing?

  9. Ruth said "Nearly all companies have the 90 day probationary period written into employee contracts".

    I've never seen one in all my years and from my discussions with HR consultants 90-day "probationary periods" are illegal. So there is a need for a law change.

  10. "Do you include the Libertarianz in your comments?"

    Blah, I think Anon is right. But by the time people realise we're right about government doing you over, sadly they've already been been done over. :-/

    "Nearly all companies have the 90 day probationary period written into employee contracts - all corporates do, and in my recent research I have discovered most 'blue collar' businesses do as well..."

    Well, your experiences are virtually unique, I'd suggest. None of the employers there yesterday suggested the Bill was unnecessary as you could presently write in a probationary period, and Ruth Dyson who said the law presently allowed you to was told in no uncertain terms by Susan-Jane Davies that "the reference to probationary employment in section 67 of the Employment Relations Act is virtually useless. Nothing in that section prevents employees from raising a personal grievance against their employer for unjustified or constructive dismissal during probation. This means that the existing law fails to provide a genuine probationary period."

    So perhaps some companies do write in a probationary period, but it's not entirely clear that the Employment Court would support such a thing.

    "... so why enshrine it into law and tie employers hands? Why would a libertarian support such a thing?"

    Is this a serious question?

    First of all, the Bill proposes an optional probationary period.

    Second, do you really want to know why a libertarian would want to get the government out of the boardroom, even for only ninety days?

    Are you sure this isn't Ruth Dyson I'm speaking to here?


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