Changes have been made to the controversial Workplace Relations Bill which gives small business a "fair go", New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

The bill, which was supported by all three Government partners at first reading, has been the subject of horse-trading between Labour and New Zealand First since it returned from a select committee with few material changes in September.

At that time Peters described it as a work in progress but today the bill is back before Parliament, with changes outlined by Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway in supplementary order paper.

One change is around the multi-employer collective agreement (Meca) provisions. Employers have a responsibility to enter into bargaining but are not compelled to settle an agreement, based on reasonable grounds.

Advertisement

The other major change is that while unions have the right to enter work sites where union members are covered by, or bargaining for, a collective agreement, they need consent from employers in all other circumstances.

Peters said New Zealand First's changes gave small and regional businesses a fair go.
"We have looked out for small and medium sized business to ensure that the law reflects their reality.

"We heard that changes needed to be made to ensure small businesses weren't unfairly treated under the legislation. This is consistent with the bill's exemption for small business from the 90-day trial rules," Peters said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government took on board some of the key concerns raised through submissions made during the select committee process.

"The Government has also had its own constructive internal discussions to produce an improved bill. Each party has bought their different views and the subsequent consensus reached will result in employment law that is better for workers and employers," she said.

But every aspect of the bill was better than the current employment legislation and provided rights and protections for workers that had been stripped by the previous National government, she said.

"Overall there is much to celebrate in this legislation, which I am sure will lead to better and more consistent outcomes in New Zealand workplaces."

National has called the bill a "return to the 1970s".

It is expected to pass its second reading with the support of all Government parties.

Lees-Galloway said earlier today that all three parties and unions were happy with the changes.

"I would summarise the changes as reasonable changes that ensure that the bill continues to strengthen workers' rights, strikes a good balance between the needs of businesses and workers and is something that all three parties of Government are very comfortable with."

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the changes would make parts of the legislation more acceptable to business.

Hope said business would be grateful for the input of New Zealand in striking a better balance between employer and worker rights.

Despite the concessions, Hope said there were still areas of concern.

"The ban on larger businesses from using 90-day job trials remains, and also the requirement for employers to reach agreement on bargaining demands for collective agreements, a provision which in our view would breach international law."

Thousands of small and large businesses concerned at the disruption the legislation would cause would still be hoping for further changes during the committee stages of the bill," Hope said in a statement.