Know your employment rights and obligations

Don’t get caught out!

If you are new to New Zealand, it is essential that you are aware of minimum employment rights and obligations in this country.

This applies to both employees and employers.

Every employer who exploits migrants can be imprisoned and/or fined up to $100,000. Plus, there are a range of other penalties and remedies available.

By New Zealand law, all employees in this country have minimum employment rights that can’t be taken away from you.

Luciane Bryant, Information and Education Manager, Employment New Zealand MBIE  says,

“There is a lot of information to be aware of and we make it easy by providing Employment New Zealand resources via our website, publications and phone line.”

So there is no practical reason why you shouldn’t know this vital information.

It’s all there for you to use free of charge.

We have provided 20 key points you should know just as a starting point”

Here’s 20 minimum rights for employees everyone should know – it’s important you know your rights!

You Have The Right To:

get a written employment contract (agreement) before you start working.

get advice or support from someone you trust before you sign the contract.

have your contract kept updated and a right to a copy when you ask for it.

be paid at least the minimum wage if you are 16 years or older.

get rest and meal breaks, for example, during an 8-hour work period, you have the right to get both:

two 10-minute paid rest breaks

one 30-minute unpaid meal break.

take 11 public holidays off work on full pay, if they are days you would normally work.

get paid 1.5 times your normal pay rate plus another day off, if you work on a public holiday that is otherwise a normal working day.

get paid leave under these circumstances after you have been employed for 6 months or you meet the ‘hours worked’ test:

5 days’ paid sick leave a year

up to 3 days’ paid bereavement leave on the death of your spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or your spouse or partner’s parent

up to one day’s paid bereavement leave on the death of a person not included above, if your employer accepts that you have suffered a bereavement with regard to certain defined factors

up to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave a year.

get 4 weeks of paid annual holiday (annual leave) each year, after you’ve been employed for 12 months.

get parental leave for up to 12 months and parental leave payments to care for a new baby if you meet the 6-month or 12-month rule.

ask at any time for short-term flexible working arrangements for up to 2 months to help you deal with the effects of domestic violence.

ask your employer for details of your time worked, leave and holiday entitlements.

be treated fairly and to a proper process if you lose your job through being fired or made redundant.

be protected from unlawful discrimination because of your age, ethnicity, sex, disability or religious beliefs.

be protected from adverse treatment (being treated badly or unfairly) because you might be affected by domestic violence.

work in a safe workplace with proper training, supervision and equipment provided by the employer.

Your Employer Cannot:

make deductions (take money) from your pay if you don’t agree to it, except for deductions set out in law, such as income tax.

ask you to pay them for giving you a job.

demand to keep your passport

make you do a 90-day trial period at the start of a new job if a business has 19 or fewer employees, unless all of these conditions are met:

you agree to it first

it’s written in your employment contract

the agreement includes the notice period

you both sign it before you start working.

You and your employer must be fair to each other by dealing in good faith. This includes being open, honest and responsive towards each other.

These are just some and not all the rights that employees have. All such rights are obligations for employers.

Check out the new foundation online learning module to employment rights in New Zealand – An introduction to Your Employment Rights.

This module is a quick summary to your employment rights.

All employees are encouraged to complete this introductory module first. It is designed for all employees covering both current and future workers.

To get started, visit: – It’s free and easy to register.

So, know your employment rights and obligations – don’t get caught out!

Remember to contact Employment New Zealand for information and help.

Visit and enter keywords “Rights and Responsibilities” (This includes resources in 18 other languages).

Phone: 0800-209020 toll free for employment information and translation service on request.

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