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Concern bill cuts harassment protection

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/06/2017

A proposed law that would let high-income workers opt out of the right to pursue personal grievance claims could remove important protections against discrimination and harassment, the Law Society says.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill is currently before a select committee and would allow those earning more than $150,000 a year to contract out of rights to personal grievances.

In its submission to the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee, the Law Society said the bill could spark an increase in claims under other privacy and human rights legislation.

"Under the bill, a 'higher earner' who contracts out of the right to pursue a personal grievance and who is subsequently dismissed, cannot challenge the dismissal - including not being able to challenge for alleged discrimination, harassment or other breaches of human rights," society president Kathryn Beck said.

The drafter of the bill had acknowledged the lack of protections for sexual or racial harassment and that those needed to be inserted by the committee, she said.

The result would be an increase in staff using alternative means to bring grievances, such as under the Privacy Act or the Human Rights Act, society spokesman Michael Quigg told the committee.

"The experience in Australia is that extinguishing personal grievance claims for dismissal for higher earners results in an increase in other types of claim."

The society also criticised a number of technical issues regarding timing and execution of the employment agreements.

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