New Zealand has a comprehensive set of employment laws that help keep workplaces fair. You need to be aware of the rules, and what your rights and responsibilities are.
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.
Employee rights and obligations
Under New Zealand employment law, you and your employer both have certain rights and obligations. For example, your employer must pay you an agreed wage, which must not be less than the minimum wage set by the government. Your employer must also make sure where you work is safe.
You can find out more about your employment rights on the Employment New Zealand website. It has information in 14 languages and an online course where you can learn about your minimum rights.
Community Law also has a manual that lists your basic rights and obligations.
As an employee you are required to perform your job with care and competence, among other things.
You must also stay within the conditions of your visa. If you have a work visa, it might be tied to your employer, industry, or to a particular city or region. If your visa has conditions like these and you want to change jobs, you will need to apply for a variation of conditions first.
What to do in case of exploitation
If you feel that you are being exploited, or if your employment rights are not being respected, ask for help.
Information about what to do in this situation is available on the Immigration New Zealand website. The same information is available in English and other languages, including Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Fijian, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Samoan, Tagalog, Tongan and Vietnamese.
Even if you have already accepted a verbal offer for a job, you must sign a written agreement before you start work.
Many larger companies offer collective employment agreements that have been negotiated by a union. If you are not a union member you can still take advantage of the collective agreement, and use it as a basis for your employment conditions.
If there is something in your agreement you are not sure about, you can take the agreement away to think it over, or ask someone for advice. If you want to negotiate the terms and conditions of your agreement, make sure you do it before you sign.
You have have the right to join a union, and your employer cannot 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. You do not have to accept a trial period. If you do accept it, you must have a written agreement before you start work. If you want to negotiate, talk to your employer before you sign the contract. Note that only employers with less than 20 employees can use trial periods.
The Employment New Zealand website has more information about trial periods.
Leave and holidays
Most New Zealand workers would tell you they get a good amount of leave, at least by international standards. This is great given you have a new country to explore, and may need to go back home to visit family.
You will get a minimum of four weeks' annual leave. You can ask to exchange one week’s leave for cash if you want. In addition, there are 11 public holiday days.
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 “taking a day in lieu”.
You are also entitled to a certain amount of paid leave for other reasons, for example if you are sick or experience family violence.
Leave for working parents
New Zealand employers, and society in general, are supportive of working parents.
Many new parents are entitled to paid parental leave of up to 22 weeks.
If your child gets sick, you can use your sick leave entitlement to look after them. This type of leave is called domestic leave and can be used to care for any dependent family member.
If you are a nursing mother, your employer is required by law to let you breastfeed at work.
Health and safety in the workplace
You and your employer are both responsible for making sure your workplace is a safe environment.
For more information about your health and safety rights and responsibilities at work, visit the Work Safe and Community Law websites.
Wages and deductions
The minimum wage (before tax) for adults as at 1 April 2019 is $17.70 an hour, or $708 for a standard 40-hour work week. There is no minimum wage for children under 16.
Income tax gets taken out of your wage before you get paid - these deductions are known as PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax.
Another, much smaller, deduction is for your ACC levy. ACC stands for Accident Compensation Corporation which runs the insurance system New Zealand has for covering costs if you are injured. Along with other benefits, if you are off work for an extended period because of an injury, ACC will compensate you for a large portion of lost wages.
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.
You will need a tax number (called an Inland Revenue Department number or IRD number). If you do not have one, you might be taxed a higher amount than is necessary. It is easy to get an IRD number when you arrive in New Zealand. Our Taxes page explains the process.
Aside from PAYE tax and the ACC levy, your employer is not allowed to make any deductions from your pay without your permission.
If you become a New Zealand resident, you will have the option of joining KiwiSaver, a work-based retirement savings programme.
Discrimination and harassment
Discriminating against someone because of their race, gender or other reasons is illegal in New Zealand.
Sexual harassment, including requests for sexual contact and any kind of offensive or unwelcome sexual behaviour, is also illegal here.
If you think you have been discriminated against or sexually harassed in the workplace, the Community Law website is a helpful resource. We also have more information on our page Your Rights.
Ending your employment
If you decide to leave your job, you need to give your employer notice and continue to work for the notice period agreed to in your signed employment contract.
If employers choose to make you leave your position 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.
Need to know more?
The Employment New Zealand website has comprehensive information about your basic rights and obligations at work.
Simple, easy-to-read information about employment law is available elsewhere on their website.