A Guide to Employee Rights in New Zealand

Posted on  May 12, 21 by Vivian Morgado
employee rights in New Zealand

Considering employing someone in New Zealand? To do that compliantly, an employer has a lot of obligations they have to fulfil. One comprehensive and important topic is the set of local employee rights a worker residing in New Zealand is entitled to.

Below is a guide to employee rights in New Zealand to help you understand what you need to comply with. (You can read about employee rights in AustraliaBrazil, Canada, Croatia, IrelandFrancethe UKPortugalPolandGermanyThe Netherlands, and Lithuania)

To employ someone in New Zealand, you need to be a registered employer. To get a full overview of what employing someone in New Zealand would take and see all the obligations you will have as an employer, please read our New Zealand Country Guide. (For a more general list of what you need to do in every country to employ someone, check out this list).

Alternatively, you can work with an Employer of Record, such as Boundless, which will employ the worker on your behalf locally. That would spare you any registrations and ensure compliance with employment and tax law, all the while assuring harmonised experience for your employees there. 

Regardless of the employment approach, all employees in Croatia are entitled to the following employee rights.

General employee rights in New Zealand

Employment agreement

Employers must give New Zealand employees a written employment agreement that they have agreed upon and signed before starting work. The following clauses are mandatory and should appear in every contract:

  • Employee and employer name
  • Description of work to be performed
  • Work hours, days and start and finish times
  • Place of work
  • Remuneration
  • Benefits
  • Work-related problem resolution process
  • An employment protection provision if the employer sells or transfers the business, or if the employee's work is contracted out

Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are not common in New Zealand.

Employees can request a change to their hours, days, and place of work, as well as how work is started, executed, finished and managed.

Payslip

It is not mandatory to provide payslips in New Zealand, but employees have the right to see information about how their employer has worked out wages and see the time records relating to their hours of work. Employees also have the right to request information about their annual leave and sick leave entitlement.

Health & Safety

Employees are entitled to work in environments where their health and safety risks are properly controlled and where they have access to adequate facilities. These include toilets, washing facilities and first aid. Employees should have sufficient training, information and support on how to do their job safely, must contribute to health and safety decisions, are required to have personal protective equipment (PPE) and are entitled to a Health and Safety Representative or Committee.

Regardless of gender, race, colour, nationality and age, employees are entitled to equal pay for doing the same work or doing work of equal value.

Flexible working

Employees can request at any time and for any reason to change their hours, days or place of work. The right to flexible work also extends to how work is done, how it's started, finished and managed in the workplace to help employees and businesses. After an employee has requested flexible work, the employer has one month to reply in writing and doesn't have to agree with the request if there is a good business reason for declining.

Flexible work arrangements include reduced or increased hours, flexible hours, job-sharing, working remotely and paid study leave.

Protections

Protection from discrimination, bullying & harassment

All people are protected from unlawful discrimination in their employment. This includes age, race or colour, ethnicity or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religious or ethical belief, marital or family status, employment status, political opinion, being affected by domestic violence.

Bullying is seen as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards employees, including physical, verbal or relational/social acts such as excluding someone or spreading rumours. It may include victimising, humiliating, intimidating, or threatening an individual. It is not a one-off incident of unreasonable behaviour or occasional instances of rudeness or misjudgment.

Harassment is any unwanted or unjustified behaviour which an individual finds offensive or humiliating, including sexual or racial harassment. Its seriousness or repetition harms their employment, job performance, or job satisfaction.

Special protection is extended to all employees in Zealand against discrimination, bullying, and harassment.

Whistleblower protection

Whistleblowers have legal protection unless the information they are disclosing is protected by legal professional privilege. Their identity will be kept confidential unless disclosure is essential to:

  • The effective investigation of the allegations
  • Preventing severe risk to public health or safety or the environment
  • Comply with the principles of natural justice

An employee who suffers retaliatory action by their employer for their protected disclosure can make a claim under the Employment Relations Act.

Under the Human Rights Act, it is unlawful to treat acting or potential whistleblowers less favourably than others. Several legal remedies under the Human Rights Act may be available to whistleblowers.

Pay and employment equity protection

Regardless of their gender, race, colour, nationality and age, employees are entitled to equal pay for doing the same work or doing work of equal value. Work value is assessed in terms of skills, knowledge, responsibility, effort, and working conditions.

Personal information protection

The Privacy Act stipulates that the following employee data must be protected and respected:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Other individual identifiers

Data that is public knowledge can be stored in open databases. Employers should collect only relevant and accurate personal information, keep it secure and use it for limited purposes. Employers shouldn't keep personal data for longer than necessary.

Under the Human Rights Act, it is unlawful to treat acting or potential whistleblowers less favourably than others.

Benefits

Unemployment funds

Unemployment benefits are provided by the government and are available to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who become unemployed. To qualify, the person must be unemployed, over 18, actively looking for a new job and have lived continuously in the country for at least two years. The benefit ranges from NZ$175 to NZ$428, depending on age, family status, number of dependents, and other personal circumstances.

Want to see all benefits in New Zealand in a neatly packed visual way and see how leading employers augment these benefits? Download our New Zealand benefits benchmark infographic.

Job Security

Union

Employees have the right to join a union or not, and employers cannot influence their decision.

Want to employ someone in New Zealand?

Adhering to employment law and employee rights in New Zealand will require a commitment to learning and working with a lot of local regulations. We are here to help you on that journey and take the time to make sense of complex legislative information, which we turn into easy to understand resources and comprehensive country guides (check our guide to New Zealand).

However, staying on top of Kiwi employment law may not be a top priority for you right now. That doesn’t mean you should give up on employing your next remote worker out of New Zealand or opt for hiring them as an independent contractor instead (which is a bad idea). 

Boundless can help you employ anyone in New Zealand legally and hassle-free. We own and operate a Kiwi Professional Employer Organisation as part of our multi-country offering. Through the Employer of Record model, we act as the legal employer to your remote workers and take care of the many obligations that come with adhering to these employee rights in New Zealand. Learn more.

The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.

Written by Vivian Morgado

Vivian leads Global Operations Research at Boundless. She specializes in understanding and documenting country requirements for Boundless expansion and creating HR-related country guides for our customers. Having spent the past 4 years wandering the globe, she understands both the culture and the bureaucracy that comes with establishing a multi-country operation.

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