New Zealand has laws that help keep workplaces fair. You should be aware of the rules and what your rights and responsibilities are.
Under New Zealand employment law, employers and employees both have rights and responsibilities.
Your employer must treat you fairly, pay you at least the minimum wage set by the government, and meet their other employment law obligations. They must also make sure your workplace is safe.
Employee rights and obligations
You must do your job competently and follow workplace health and safety rules. You must also stay within the conditions of your visa.
Some of your key employee rights are covered on this page. For more information about the current minimum wage and your employment rights, go to the Employment New Zealand website. It has information in 14 languages and a free online course where you can learn about your minimum rights.
Get help if your employer is exploiting you
If you think your employer is taking advantage of you (exploiting you), or they are not respecting your employment rights, ask for help.
The Immigration New Zealand website has information on how to keep safe and where to get help in the following languages: Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Fijian, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Samoan, Tagalog, Tongan and Vietnamese.
If you have had a disagreement with your employer and do not think you have been treated fairly, you can find out where to get help on our 'Support in the workplace' page.
All employees must have a signed, written employment agreement with their employer. Even if you have already accepted a verbal offer for a job, you must sign a written agreement before you start work.
Read before you sign
You should read your agreement before you sign it. If there is something you are not sure about, you can take it away to think it over or ask someone for advice. If you want to make changes to the agreement, talk with your employer before you sign it.
Many larger companies offer collective employment agreements that have been negotiated by a union. If you are not a union member you can still use the collective agreement as the basis for your employment conditions.
Joining a union
You have the right to join a union. Your employer is not allowed to influence your decision. Our 'Support in the workplace' page has more information about unions.
Your employer may ask you to do a 90-day trial in a new job. Only employers with fewer than 20 employees can do this.
You do not have to agree to a trial period. If you do agree, it must be part of your signed, written employment agreement before you start work. If you want to negotiate, talk to your employer before you sign the agreement.
The Employment New Zealand website has more information about trial periods.
Leave and holidays
By international standards, most New Zealand workers get a good amount of leave. This is great, given that you have a new country to explore and you may need to go back home to visit family from time to time.
You will get a minimum of four weeks' annual leave. You can ask to exchange one week’s leave for cash if you want to.
In addition to annual leave, there are 11 public holiday days.
Working on a public holiday
If you work on a public holiday, your employer has to pay you extra. You may also be able to take the holiday on another day - it is called ‘a day in lieu’.
You are also entitled to a certain amount of paid leave for other reasons, for example if you are sick.
Check your passport and visa before going overseas on holiday
Thinking of taking a holiday overseas? Before you book anything, check if your passport is up to date and what travel your visa type will allow.
Leave and rights for working parents
New Zealand employers are supportive of working parents.
Many new parents are entitled to paid parental leave of up to 22 weeks. The government plans to extend this to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.
If your child gets sick, you can use your sick leave entitlement to look after them. You can also use your sick leave to care for any other family member that depends on you, for example children, parents, your sick partner.
Health and safety in the workplace
You and your employer are both responsible for making sure your workplace is safe to work in. Your employer must provide protective personal equipment (PPE) if it is needed for your job.
For more information about your health and safety rights and responsibilities at work, visit the Worksafe and Community Law websites.
Wages, deductions and tax
The minimum wage is set by the government and reviewed each year. Employees must be paid at least the minimum hourly wage rate for every hour they work. There is no minimum wage for children under 16.
Wages are usually advertised ‘before tax’. That is something to keep in mind when job-hunting, since the pay you actually take home will be lower.
Your employer can only deduct (take out) money from your wages if it is legal. Deductions that are allowed include income tax, the ACC levy and KiwiSaver.
- Income tax - known as PAYE or Pay As You Earn tax - gets taken out of your wages before you get paid. Tax rates vary depending on what you earn.
- A much smaller amount is taken out to help pay for ACC – New Zealand’s insurance scheme that covers costs if you are injured.
- If you become a New Zealand resident, you will have the option of joining KiwiSaver - a work-based retirement savings scheme. Both you and your employer contribute to the scheme from your wages.
Your employer is not allowed to take any other amounts out of your pay without your permission.
ACC stands for Accident Compensation Corporation, which runs the ACC scheme. Along with other benefits, if you are off work for an extended period because of an injury, you may be able to get ACC compensation for a large portion of your lost wages.
You will need a tax number (called an IRD number) to make sure you are not taxed more than you should be. Get one when you arrive in New Zealand and before you start your job. It is easy to do online. Our 'Taxes' page explains more about tax and how to get an IRD number.
Discrimination and harassment
Treating someone less well than others because of their race, gender or other reasons is discrimination. Discrimination is illegal in New Zealand.
Sexual harassment, including any kind of offensive or unwelcome sexual behaviour, is also illegal here.
If you think someone is discriminating against you or sexually harassing you in the workplace, you can complain to the Human Rights Commission. We have more information on our 'Your rights' page.
Ending your employment
If you decide to resign you need to give your employer advance notice. You must continue to work for the notice period agreed to in your signed employment agreement, unless you both agree otherwise.
If your employer chooses to end your employment through dismissal, restructure or redundancy, they need to follow a formal process. If they do not follow it properly you could be entitled to compensation.
Find out more
The Employment New Zealand website has detailed information about your minimum employment rights and responsibilities at work and simple information about employment law.