Possible solution to ERB spat

A register of independent contractors is being hailed as a potential solution to the conflict between Government and the IT industry over the Employment Relations Bill.

A register of independent contractors is being hailed as a potential solution to the conflict between Government and the IT industry over the Employment Relations Bill.

The solution was offered at a meeting between Employment Minister Margaret Wilson and Itanz executive director Jim O'Neil.

O'Neil says the minister welcomed the plan along with other suggestions and he is now confident of less harmful legislation.

"The minister considered that such a register for IT contractors would only contribute positively towards establishing that a contractor had not been coerced into accepting contract status.

"We envisage that IT contractors will write to Itanz seeking registration as an independent contractor, stating they are doing so of their own choice after taking legal advice and that this is their preferred method of conducting business.

"In turn we will issue them a letter confirming their intent to be classified as an independent IT contractor when entering into contracts with clients," he says.

One hurdle with the current bill is it gives contractors rights to be classed as permanent workers, which O'Neil says is already deterring companies from taking on contractors, even though the bill is several months away from implementation.

The government says low-paid workers like cleaners need such protection, but now it admits better-paid IT workers do not need it.

O'Neil says the government and IT contractors could inspect the register to check who is an IT contractor when contracts are entered into. This could then be re-checked should there be a dispute over employment status.

The informed consent issue, whereby people say they are not coerced into contracts, may also be settled and he also confirmed the government would not impose retrospective rights to holiday pay etc, to short-term contracts.

A spokesperson for the minister confirmed progress was made at the meeting.

The Select Committee on the ERB has been extended, so it won't report back to Parliament until next month. And its introduction is likely to be delayed beyond the planned August 1 date, he says.

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Tags contractorsERBEmployment Relations Bill

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