Employers: 90-day changes detrimental

Virginia Nicholls
Virginia Nicholls
Restricting 90-day trial periods to employers with fewer than 20 staff would disadvantage unskilled and young people in Otago and Southland, Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls said yesterday.

Feedback from Otago and Southland employers was the 90-day trial period gave them confidence to take on new employees who might not have the experience they required for a role.

More often than not, those people went on to demonstrate aptitude, which included showing they had the skills and ability needed.

''The association's view, based on member feedback, is restricting the 90-day trial period to employers with fewer than 20 staff would make medium-sized businesses less willing to take such chances.''

The changes would disadvantage the very people who needed an opportunity to gain a foothold in the job market, she said.

The Northern EMA, Business Central, the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce and the Otago-Southland Employers Association joined together to survey their members to show how important the trial period was for businesses.

About 1000 businesses responded and 77% said the 90-day trial period was an ''extremely important'' part of their decision-making to engage a new employee.

About 90% said they kept employees on after the trial period had finished and 94% said employees taken on under the 90-day trial period remained for more than 18 months.

EMA employment relations and safety manager Paul Jarvie said unemployment was at an all time low.

Combined with a current skills shortage, the trial period gave employers the confidence to offer a job to a candidate they might not otherwise consider.

''The risks associated with hiring the wrong person are high for an an employer, from both a financial and reputational perspective.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill allowed employers with 20 employees or more to use probation periods if they wished to use some type of trial period, he said.

However, under a probationary period, an employee could choose to initiate a personal grievance claim if they felt they were unfairly dismissed.

The combined associations would prefer if the 90-day trial periods remained as they were, available for all employers to use.

Respondents to the survey were mainly from the manufacturing sector. Construction, retail, professional services and healthcare were the next largest sectors among respondents.

The majority of respondents (39%) employed 11 to 49 staff, 20% employed 10 staff or fewer, 18% employed 50 to 100 staff and 14% employed 100 to 250 staff.

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