Election 2014: Minter Ellison's Jennifer Mills

by Mackenzie McCarty17 Feb 2014
With this year’s general election fast approaching, we’ll be taking a close look at the potential impacts on law firms and their clients around the country over the next seven to nine months.

Historically, elections have had a somewhat stagnating effect on business – often translating to a tightening of legal budgets. But Minter Ellison Rudd Watts partner, Jennifer Mills, says there are some positive signs going forward.

“Although we are in an election year, business confidence for 2014 is looking good and the year has gotten off to a busy start with high levels of corporate activity.  Some of this has been driven internationally (which is likely to be less effected by an election) and we expect to see continued work from investment opportunities coming from China.  This has driven much of our M&A and capital markets work in recent years.

Reports of our ‘rock star’ economy, together with business brought about by the Christchurch rebuild, construction in Auckland, dairy pricing and other food export issues look to keep things moving on a number of fronts.” 

Furthermore, Mills says the top tier firm has yet to see any major concern being expressed by clients.

“The first election policies from the major parties are just starting to emerge and areas of concern are likely to become more defined as parties release their manifestos.  In addition, it is unclear what sort of impact a number of players will have on the political landscape, such as the resurrected ACT party, the Conservatives, and the Greens, not to mention the ever-present influence of New Zealand First.  The degree to which the major parties are likely to enter into arrangements with these minor parties will go a long way towards escalating or allaying any concern from business.”

Mills, who heads up Minter Ellison Rudd Watts' employment team, believes employment issues will be a major topic of discussion leading up to the elections.

“There are a number of issues that are likely to bring about positioning from both Labour and National.  The issue of paid parental leave is likely to be of importance…Labour are also likely to target a number of recent National party initiatives, including a number of changes contained in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2013, which is due for its second reading shortly.”

Mills says  potential areas of debate include the proposed exemption from the “vulnerable” worker transfer provisions for small businesses, the legislation increasing employer flexibility for meal and rest breaks, the removal of the “30 day rule” and ability for employers to withdraw from bargaining for a MECA (multi-employer collective agreement).
“Other issues which may also be discussed are the minimum wage, particularly in the context of the recent debate over a ‘living wage’ for public sector employees and the 90-day trial period, which was introduced by National in April 2011.

In short, I would expect that National’s employment policy will continue to be one of incremental change driven by economic considerations, with the main policy drivers being the usual fare of money, health and education.  Labour looks likely to demonstrate a return to more traditional routes, with a focus on the wealth divide, which will no doubt be demonstrated by a number of headline employee and family friendly policies.”