Your employment rights

This section summarises the basic rights and obligations that all workers in New Zealand have.

Your basic work rights

New Zealand has minimum rights and entitlements which apply by law to all workers. These rights apply if you are on a study, work or working holiday visa and whether or not they are written in your employment agreement.

Your employer is required by law to:

  • Give you a written employment agreement
  • Pay you at least the minimum wage
  • Give you paid annual holidays
  • Give you paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks
  • Give you public holidays off or compensate you for working on those days
  • Not deduct money from your wages without your agreement in writing
  • Provide a safe workplace
  • Not discriminate against you
  • Act in good faith.

If your employer is not meeting these obligations you can call the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment’s (MBIE) contact centre on  0800 20 90 20 for help (ask for the “Language Line” if you want an interpreter).

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Employment agreements

A New Zealand employer must give you a written copy of the proposed employment agreement when they offer you a job. You can take it away to read and discuss with other people before you sign and accept the job.

If anything about the agreement isn’t clear, ask your employer. If the agreement has things you don’t like, you’re entitled to discuss them with your employer and to try and negotiate changes.

Be aware there are certain terms and conditions that all employment agreements must include. Make sure you understand these and what the job involves before you sign the agreement.

Once you and your new employer have both signed, ask for a copy and keep it safe. You may need to check the terms and conditions you originally agreed to if there’s a disagreement later on.

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Ending your job

You or your employer can choose to end your employment however there are rules about how this has to be done.

If you want to leave, you must tell your employer in advance. This is called giving notice. Check your employment agreement to see how many days’ or weeks’ notice you’re required to give and what else you need to do.

If your employer wants to dismiss you they can, but there are steps they must follow. They must have a good reason for dismissing you, and carry out your dismissal in a way that is fair and reasonable.

If you have a trial period in your employment agreement then your employer can dismiss you within the first 90 days without warning and without giving you a reason.

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Handling work problems

If there are problems with work, check your employment agreement. It should outline what steps you can take. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment also has information about dealing with problems at work.

Make sure that you’re clear about what the problem or issue is. It could simply be a misunderstanding so start by talking it over with your employer. If you’re not comfortable approaching your employer on your own, you can take someone you trust.

If talking doesn’t solve the issue then you can phone the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment’s (MBIE) contact centre on  0800 20 90 20 (8.30am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays). You can ask for “Language Line” if you want an interpreter. If calling from overseas call +64 9 969 2950.

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More information and assistance

For further general information on your rights as an employee, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s Employment Relations website.

For details about the law and your particular situation, speak to one of their information officers by calling the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s  contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 (8.30am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays). You can ask for “Language Line” if you want an interpreter. If calling from overseas call +64 9 969 2950.

Record keeping

Employers are required to keep accurate records of the time you work, payments you receive and your holiday and leave entitlements. They must keep a signed copy of your employment agreement and give you a copy if you ask for one.

You should keep a copy of your employment agreement yourself, and your own record of the hours you work and payments you receive. Having all this written down will help if ever there is a disagreement with your employer about your pay or entitlements.

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Rests and meals

Employers must give workers breaks. These include paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks. If you are not getting time to take breaks, you should discuss it with your employer.

Support with employer discussions

You can take anyone you wish to help you talk with an employer – your parent or guardian, a family friend, or anyone else that you trust. They could also be a professional person like a union representative or a lawyer.

The person you choose can just be there to support you, or they can speak on your behalf. Having someone to help can be useful when you negotiate new terms and conditions of employment, or if you’re dealing with a problem at work.

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Unions & collective agreements

You can choose to join a union or not. Your employer can’t influence you. There may be a collective agreement  (a set of negotiated conditions that cover union members who are doing the same type of work as you in that workplace) for your job. Your employer must tell you if there is a collective agreement in place before you start.

If you join the union, and your job is covered by the union’s collective agreement, then you will be automatically bound by the collective agreement.  You can also negotiate some individual terms with your employer if these are consistent with the terms of the collective agreement.

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Workers’ obligations

As a worker or employee who is being paid for your time and skills, you have certain obligations to your employer.

Your obligations include:

  • Turning up to work on time
  • Following instructions
  • Working carefully so your workmates or employer’s property isn’t harmed
  • Doing your job as well as you can
  • Following the dress code if there is one
  • Being honest
  • Always acting in good faith.

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