For the majority of us, the holiday haze of feeling ambivalent towards time and date is now but a distant memory. For corporate lawyers, the shutdown period over Christmas is coming to an end. Of the winners and losers of 2020, corporate lawyers and their Christmas holidays come out on top. Let's assess some other winners and losers:
Winners of 2020
Millennials and Generation Z-ers are ever-so-slightly winning in the housing department thanks to the new tenancy laws coming into force in February.
It means they will be going into winter in the hopes of being warmer seeing as landlords will be having to put in heat pumps and improve insulation, and while rent is eye-wateringly high, landlords can only increase said rent in 12-month increments, as opposed to six.
In an employment law context, 2020 saw the promise to review and simplify the Holidays Act - which is almost 17 years out of date. In addition to increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour, Labour promised to simplify holiday pay calculations; allow employees to take leave even if they have not been with an employer for six months; allow for employees to take bereavement leave and family violence leave; and to increase sick days to 10 days per year, up from five.
It also looks like independent contractors will be entitled to more rights, thanks to the landmark decision in last year's case between Mike Letoa and Parcel Express Limited. Chief Judge Christina Inglis ruled in favour of Letoa's application to be determined an employee, essentially saying that most courier drivers were operating as independent contractors when in fact they were serving someone else's business.
While the judge did not find that all courier drivers were employees as a general principle, and the case was industry-specific, it is arguably just a matter of time before a law change allows for proper entitlements and protections.
All is not lost for employers, who still have the power to deny requests to work from home, fire you, or make you redundant - which increasingly is a reality in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA for short).
On an unrelated note, Russell McVeagh came out on top in 2020 and was named Employer of Choice at the New Zealand Lawyer Awards. On the face of it, they have come far in just a few years following the revelations of sexual misconduct.
A shout-out to all the firms who never responded to my requests for information or comment - it has meant I too am in the loser category for 2020. While some firms lost out and had to repay the wage subsidy after they were named and shamed in the media, many I'm sure came out unscathed and with the wage subsidy in tow.
2020's biggest sore loser has to be US President Donald Trump. Despite a landslide loss on all fronts, it appears he and his frightening band of followers are going down kicking and screaming - even if it means jeopardising democracy, the US Constitution, and the rule of law in the process.
Another great loss was the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The women's rights pioneer died on September 18 at her home in Washington at the age of 87. Despite pleas from Democrats including Joe Biden, the Trump administration successfully nominated Amy Coney Barrett, who is on record in supporting the conservative evangelical efforts to roll back the clock on women's rights including reproduction rights and healthcare.
And ... for those who follow the Real Housewives franchise, Beverly Hills honey Erika Jane had a rough 2020 following her split with lawyer Tom Girardi of Erin Brockovich fame. The pair have also been accused of stealing millions of dollars from vulnerable clients, including Indonesian children orphaned by a plane crash and a victim in the Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline explosion.
Back in New Zealand, those in support of the End of Life Bill rejoiced, but "pot-smoking hippy" rhetoric reigned supreme - with results of the referendum coming out against the legalisation of cannabis.
Then there is Andrew Borrowdale who challenged the first nine days of the alert level 4 lockdown. The High Court found the first "stay at home" order was not made under the law and breached the Bill of Rights Act's freedoms of association and movement. But the court said it was a necessary, reasonable, and proportionate response to the crisis at the time.
To end, I am unsure how to place Judith Collins. While the National Party lost the election by a trillion votes, Collins survived the loss - and despite claiming she was a woman of colour in the year of #BlackLivesMatter. One thing's for sure, you can't fault her resilience, where she rises from the ashes time and time again. "Harry Potter" and "horcrux" come to mind.