Rural round-up


Provincial president reflects on future of farming belonging to those who are good at what they do – Pat Deavoll:

South Canterbury sheep and beef farmer Mark Adams has been the provincial Federated Farmers president for the district for almost three years.

His face and opinions are commonplace in online news and the Canterbury farming mags. He farms just north of Fairlie amongst a pleasant, fertile and rolling landscape. In the winter the local ski fields form a snowy backdrop to the farm.

Adams’ term of office with the Feds comes to a close in April. He is reflective on the past three years and says representing farmers in the district has been satisfying. But there’s been a lot to get his head around. . . 

Record temperatures tough on stock – Esther Taunton:

With much of Taranaki hit by drought and other parts of New Zealand experiencing record-breaking temperatures, AgResearch scientists say the pressure is on farmers to carefully manage animal welfare.

The soaring temperatures across the country include the hottest recorded temperature in Dunedin and Invercargill over recent days. The increased heat and humidity raises issues around the welfare of livestock as well as production from those animals.

Over the last 15 years, AgResearch scientists have carried out extensive research into how dairy cows cope with heat. That research has provided important insights for animal management, says senior scientist Dr Karin Schütz. . .

Farmers welcome 90 day work trial retention :

Fears difficulties attracting staff to farming would be exacerbated by employment law changes appear to have subsided with the Government retaining the 90-day trial provisions for small businesses.

Federated Farmers employment spokesman Chris Lewis said allowing businesses employing less than 20 staff to retain the trial would give farmers renewed confidence to employ staff, given the main concern for dairy farmers was a lack of available, motivated workers.

“Many employ few staff, but because of the small size of the business, they simply can’t afford the situation or inconvenience when new staff aren’t suited for the job or can’t fit in,” he said.

Retaining the 90-day trial would give farmers confidence to employ staff. . .

Dear neighbor we need NAFTA, love, your local farm family – Uptown Farms:

Dear Neighbor,

You pass by our local business daily, even though we don’t have a storefront on Main Street. You drive by our production lines to and from work each day, although you probably just call them fields. You probably don’t give much thought at all to the corn, cattle and soybeans we are raising.

It would probably surprise you to know, that right here in our own little county, $126.6 million in sales is created each year by the farm families and that 1,173 jobs that are supported by those sales. For a rural county, with total population just over 12,000, those numbers are rather significan . . 

Right words no use with wrong policy


Labour leader Andrew Little’s state of the nation speech is full of lots of right words – lowest unemployment, dignity, self-respect, families, engine room will be small business, quality of life needs strong economic performance . . .

But all that is empty rhetoric if it’s not matched by the right policies.

That would include at the very least keeping, and better still extending, the 90-day trail period for new employees.

But Radio New Zealand’s 10am news report (which I can’t find on-line) said Labour would be ditching the 90-day trial period.

One of the greatest risks to a small business is the wrong employee – someone who doesn’t have the ability to do what’s required how and when it’s required and who puts more pressure on or  otherwise negatively impacts other employees.

No matter how well someone presents in interviews and how rigorous the reference checks, it’s impossible to tell how someone will fit in the workplace until s/he’s actually in it and working.

Recruiting, inducting and training new staff is a hassle which no business wants to keep doing every three-months. that would waste time, money and physical and mental energy and reduce productivity.

There hasn’t been a lot of employers abusing the process. There have been more employers taking on the risk of taking on new employees because they know they can let them go within 90 days if they aren’t right for the job.

Getting rid of the 90-day trial period would be the triumph of politics over policy that has been proven to work.

Little can carry on saying the right words but they will be meaningless if they’re followed with the wrong policy.
Andrew Little says Labour will stand up for small business. Here’s a quick pop quiz for Mr Little about where he really stands.

Trial periods work for businesses and workers


Employers are using the 90 day trial  period to reduce the risk of taking on new staff and they are employing more people because of it.

This is one of the findings from research undertaken by the Department of Labour:

The Employers’ Perspectives – Part One: Trial Periods research is based on the findings of the National Survey of Employers of around 2,000 employers and qualitative interviews with 53 employers in Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin/Invercargill from the retail, hospitality, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and manufacturing industries.

The report found:

• Sixty percent of hiring employers in the national survey reported using a trial period since its introduction (49 percent in 2010). There is not a significant difference between the level of use in SME’s and larger employers.
• Employers use trial periods to address risk when hiring, for example:
o To check an employee’s ability for the job before making a commitment to employ permanently (66 percent)
o To employ someone with the skills required, but where the business is unsure about their ‘fit’ with the workplace (35 percent)
o To avoid incurring costs if staff are unsuitable for the job (13 percent)

• Employers used trial periods to test the viability of a position (rather than person) within the business, saying they would not have filled their most recently vacant position without a trial period. This was more likely in SME’s (30 percent), compared with 17 percent for larger employers.

• Trial periods improved employment opportunities – 41 percent of employers in the national survey said they would not have hired the most recent employee without a trial period. 
• SME’s were more likely to use trial periods to take a risk – 44 percent of SME’s would not have hired the last trial period employee without the use of a trial period, compared with 28 percent of larger employers. 
• Youth and long-term unemployed are benefitting. Respondents to the qualitative interviews said trial periods were one of the key government initiatives that had improved their willingness to hire applicants from these groups – due to reduction of risk. 
• Eighty percent of employers in the survey reported they had continued employing staff once the trial period had ended. . This is similar to the level found in the 2010 evaluation of trial periods in SME’s.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson, is justified in welcoming this news:

“Research by NZIER has previously told us that 90-day trials led to 13,000 new jobs in small and medium sized businesses,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“This latest research confirms trial periods allow employers to take on new staff, with the majority retaining their staff after the trial period is over. That’s great to see.

“The 90-day trials have been especially beneficial for young people and the long-term unemployed. it’s of clear benefit to both employers and employees.”

The opposition and unions fought against this legislation but these findings show it is working for employers and employees. 

 Businesses  face less risk when taking on new staff and they are taking on more staff including those least likely to get work without the safety net of a trial period, the long-term unemployed and young people, because of that.

Rather than opening the door to exploitation as the left prophesied the legislation has reduced risk for businesses and increased employment opportunities which is exactly what is was designed to do.

We like the 90 day trial


Ever since John Key announced that the 90-day trial period for new employers would be extended to cover all businesses unions have been telling us that’s unfair.

They aren’t reflecting the views of most people:

ONE News asked voters whether they thought the 90-day trial law should be extended to cover all companies every time someone starts a new job. Sixty percent said yes, while just 36% said no. The remainder said they didn’t know, or were unsure.

What the unions fail to understand is that a trial period isn’t just for employers’ sakes.

It helps people get a job and it also helps existing workers.

Having new workers who don’t pull their weight or simply don’t fit in can be really hard on existing staff.

What’s good for employers is good for employees


The left are calling proposed changes to employment law a declaration of law against workers.

They might enjoy the rhetoric but they’re wrong.

Measures which make it easier for businesses to employ people are measures which are better for employees.

A Department of Labour survey on the 90-day trial period for new workers found:

    • Three quarters (74%) of those employed on a trial period had retained their employment once the trial period was over (a further 5% were still working within the trial period at the time of the survey).
    • In relation to the last employee they had hired on a trial period, 40% of employers stated they would not have or were not likely to have hired that person without the trial period.

People who wouldn’t have been offered jobs were and most kept them, what’s wrong with that?

Employees . . . experiencing trial periods had a range of views, recognising some benefits of trial periods for themselves as well as for employers, but also feeling vulnerable to unfair treatment and job loss. However for those retaining employment after a trial period (three quarters of those employed on a trial period), the experience was not negative.

The experience for employees on trial wasn’t quite as positive as it was for employers. But having a job, even if they knew they might not keep it, ought to be better than not having a job at all and most of those who were taken on for a trial were retained.

Extending the 90-day trial period to all employers was one of the measures aimed at icnreasing economic growth and productivity which John Key announced yesterday.

“Employment growth happens because a business is prepared to give someone a chance – often someone they have never met before and know very little about.

“The extension of the 90-day trial period to all workplaces is all about giving prospective employees a shot at work, and giving employers the confidence to hire.

Other changes to employment law announced included allowing employees the option of cashing in their fourth week of holiday and requiring unions to get employer consent for action to workplaces, with the proviso that access can’t be unreasonably withheld.

These measures aren’t a declaration of war against workers, they’re a recipe for industrial harmony.

Clayton’s concern


Labour were concerned by jobless figures in one breath yet in the next they don’t want the 90-day trial period extended to all work places.

Any concern about jobless figures is Clayton’s concern if they’re not prepared to support measures which encourage employers to take on new staff and make the workplace better for those already employed.

The 90 day trial period makes it easier for people with questions over their work history to get jobs because it reduces the risk that employers will have to keep someone who doesn’t have the skills or personality for the position.

It also makes work places better for other employees because they don’t have to carry non-performing co-workers or put up with ones who are difficult to work with.

The 90-day trial period has been operating for small businesses long enough to show up any flaws. Opposition parties and unions which made a fuss about its introduction and said they’d publicise any problems with it, have been strangely silent.

That must mean there has been little trouble with it.

The risk that employers will exploit the 90-day clause is small. The recrutiment, initiation and training process is sufficiently time and energy consuming that employers won’t let go of reasonable workers lightly.

The gains for employers, employees and the wider economy from having a happy workforce are more taking that risk. It’s worked well for smaller businesses, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be extended to all businesses.

Any one noticed . . .


. . . cries of anguish from the thousands, hundreds, tens anyone who’s been unjustifiably dismissed within 90 days of being employed?

That was what the unions and leftwing politicians foretold when the law was changed to allow small businesses to dismiss someone within 90 days without risking a personal grievance charge.

It hasn’t happened because the time, energy and expense of recruiting, hiring, initiating and training staff – even for jobs which require little skill – mean that once someone’s employed employers do their best to hang on to them unless they’re really not suited to the position.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson is calling for submissions on the personal grievance system which currently operates and there are suggestions this might include an extension of the 90-day trial period to businesses which employ 20 or more people.

That would be a welcome move, as would any changes which allow a slightly more relaxed approach to process when workers are dismissed.

Workers need to be protected from bad employers but good employers shouldn’t have to go through extra expense because the odd i isn’t dotted when dismissing bad employees.

The discussion document, terms of reference and response form are here.

90 day trial period will end during calving


The new dairy season started last Monday, cows are dried off and the rhythm of the working day changes.

For a couple of months dairy workers  (at least those on farms which aren’t on town supply which milk all year round) don’t have to get up before dawn for milking. Instead they observe more civilised hours feeding out, catching up on maintenance and other off-season work.

Then, calving starts in early August and it’s back to the early starts.

Starting the season in June allows new staff to be inducted over winter, although neither they nor their employers really know how they’ll go until the pressure of calving goes on.

It’s not uncommon for workers to leave during or after calving because they realise the job isn’t for them.

This year, thanks to the 90 day trial period, dairy farmers who took on new workers at the start of the season will have the option of terminating employment if they aren’t suitable.

Calving usually reaches its peak in the second or third week of August. Given the time and effort involved in recruiting and inducting new staff, employers won’t exercise the 90-day clause lightly, let alone during the busiest time of the year.

90 day trial period for new workers starts today


The 90 day trial period for new workers starts today.

Contrary to what critics of the change in employment law say, there is very unlikely to be a lot of people who are asked to go within the 90 day period.

The time and cost of recruitment and training, even for low-skill jobs, means that once workers are on the pay roll employers almost always want to keep them.

There are exceptions to this with workers who aren’t up to the job or simply don’t fit into the workplace and that last point is very important because this law is not just about lowering the risk for employers when hiring new staff. The trial period will also help to maintain a safe and happy workplace for other employees because one bad employee can upset other workers and make their jobs more difficult or less enjoyable.

90 day trial good for workers & work


National’s policy of a 90 day trial for new workers will be good for employers and employees.

The policy, which will apply to businesses with fewer than 20 workers, allows employers to dismiss staff in the first three months without risking a personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal.

While probationary periods are already allowed under existing law, proper process must be followed before the worker is dismissed.

Workers can still take a personal grievance if they feel the decision not to keep them on is unfair.

Small business owners, many with as few as one or two employees, are not usually specialists in employment law and a small departure from the prescribed process can be very expensive.

Yesterday, National deputy leader Bill English said the policy would give small businesses some insurance so they could take a risk on workers they might otherwise be reluctant to employ, such as former prisoners or people with little work experience.

While large businesses could better deal with underperforming staff, it could have a serious impact on small businesses.

The knowledge that you can be stuck with an underperforming staff member can make employers reluctant to take on new staff which can put more pressure on existing workers and decrease productivity.

Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said it would lock people into their current jobs, making them less likely to move around the workforce.

“If you’re in a well-paid job with security, you’re much less likely to leave it to go to another one if you could be fired from it the next day. At the other end of the labour market, it’s almost a charter for people to abuse newly appointed, low-wage workers.”

The first job is the hardest to get, because employers take a bigger risk with people who don’t have an established work record. This policy should have no impact on those wanting to swap jobs and make it easier for people seeking their first one.

Unions are opposed to this idea. They don’t seem to realise how difficult a bad worker can make life for other employees as well as the employer.

On a dairy farm for instance where there might be only two or three staff, one who is not pulling his/her weight puts a lot of extra pressure on the others.

The criticism that with this policy employers will sack staff willy nilly is unfounded. Recruitment and training take a lot of time, energy and money. Employers are not going to waste their investment and abuse this provision by arbitarilally dismissing new staff within their first 90 days just because they can.

My only complaint is that this applies only to businesses with fewer than 20 staff.

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