Employment law is really, really complicated. So much so, that employment lawyers actually exist to help employees and employers work through what the law is, how it is typically interpreted, and even represent employees in court if things get very serious.

To make things even more complicated, your rights as an employee change depending on the country in which you work. Some countries, for example, may provide easy opportunities to challenge your employer if you feel your right has been violated, where others may require you to work it out directly with the employer instead. To keep things simple, we’ll go over your basic employee rights in New Zealand, and

To start with, let’s look at the employment rights provided by the New Zealand government, located here. Some of these basic rights include:

  • A contract of employment, with time to look it over with someone you trust

This should be written and provided to you within a reasonable amount of time prior to your first day if possible. Make sure that you read and understand the contract before signing. It never hurts to ask questions from the Human Resources department if you have them.

  • Minimum wage

Minimum wage in New Zealand is applicable for 16 years of age and up. The current rate is $16.50 NZD, which is reviewed and increased periodically. If your new job or current job is not paying this, make sure to look into it.

  • Public holidays

You can find the list of public holidays in NZ here. If you’re required to work on a public holiday, you might be entitled to your regular pay plus half of that (time and a half). Use this information to determine what you’re eligible for.  

  • Time off, including annual leave and parental leave

Your time off from work should be paid, provided you’ve accrued enough and have worked for a company for over 12 months. You should be able to use it when you want for the most part, but also understand that company need may supercede your request when appropriate. For example, a retail store needing you to work close to the holiday period rather than providing time off, as it is a very busy time for them.

  • Fair and honest treatment by both employer and employee

This includes things like providing procedural fairness if there is an investigation involving you or a colleague, and being honest with you during things like a performance review.

These are some of the basic rights that you have as an employee, and should really know by heart regardless of what company you work for. Unfortunately, many employees don’t even realise that these exist, and many employers take full advantage of that fact, or are also simply unaware that they need to adhere to them. Employers also forget some basic employee rights like providing them a safe place to submit a complaint, or telling them when they’re doing a good job or a bad job. Let’s now take a look at some of your rights that aren’t necessarily a firm requirement, but any good employer should be able to provide for you.

  • Where to report something

Have you ever had an issue at work but had no idea who to tell? Too many times we may have issues with our manager, bullying or harassment issues that are too sensitive to tell your colleagues, and perhaps even mistrust in your management team. Every company should provide a route for an employee to reach out to safe, unbiased place to report a serious concern. This is often the Human Resources department, and this team often also initiates an investigation into serious matters. However, every company may have a slightly different process, and you should know exactly where you can go in this situation.

  • How to make things better

If you have a great idea for improving a process, or if you aren’t getting along with a colleague, you should know who you can talk to about making things better. Some companies have something as simple as a suggestion box, or just have an open culture where employees can easily go to their managers with comments.  

  • How to know how you’re doing at work

This one is vital for employees. Performance evaluations are key for both employer and employee to know how they’re doing, what they’re doing well and what they can improve. You as an employee should know where you stand and be given ample opportunity to find out where you’re falling down, as well as be provided help with getting better at it.

  • What your job actually is (and how it adds to the company)

Have you ever started a job but really had no idea what you were supposed to be doing? Let alone knowing how your job add values to the big picture? This is more common than you think. Too many employees start a job without even seeing the position description, which means they’re already starting at a disadvantage because they are not sure what their core duties should be. Whether you’re just starting or have been in a role for a while, you should always have a copy of a recent position description on hand.

Finally…

Remember that there are options if you feel like you have nowhere to go at work. Of course, it’s highly recommended to follow the process your workplace has in place, work with Human Resources and to escalate up your management team before reaching out externally. However, if you’ve done all of this, and still have not had a resolution, there are options. Use this site to escalate the issue to the Employment Relations Authority, Employment Court, or the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  

Remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean the result is in your favour. Rather, it means that a fair investigation has taken place, and steps were taken to resolve the issue fairly.

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