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Employment Law in New Zealand

The terms and conditions which govern the relationship between an employee and employer are found from three sources.

  1. Legislation.

  2. Common law and cases.

  3. The employment agreement (provided the terms do not conflict with legislation, common law and cases).

The Employment Relations Act 2000 is the primary statute that governs the employment relationship. However, there are numerous other statutes which also contain rules which affect the relationship, these include:

  • Holidays Act 2003

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

  • Human Rights Act 1993

  • Wages Protection Act 1983

  • Minimum Wage Act 1983

  • Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987.

Within the employment relations landscape there are minimum standards which must apply to all employees. This includes the requirement for parties to the employment relationship to deal with each other in good faith, record-keeping, minimum wage rules and leave entitlements.

The Employment Relations Authority has exclusive jurisdiction to hear claims regarding the employment relationship. Prior to a claim being heard by the Employment Relations Authority, there is a strong focus on mediation to see if the parties can resolve the matter themselves first.

The Labour Inspectorate is the regulator set up to enforce and monitor that minimum employment standards are being met. Labour Inspectors have broad powers to investigate and enforce compliance.

Employment Law in New Zealand: Quick Facts
  • The Employment Relations Act 2000 is the primary source of legislation that regulates the employment relationship. Minimum standards in employment, however, are found in several other statutes as well, including the Holidays Act 2003, Minimum Wage Act 1983 and Wages Protection Act 1983.

  • When recruiting, employers must comply with anti-discrimination laws. Potential employees should be assessed only on their skills, experience and merit rather than on the basis of personal characteristics that are unrelated to the job. Recruitment and Selection

  • Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a primary duty to take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise risks that may adversely impact the health and safety of workers and others affected by the work. Health and Safety at Work

  • The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibits discriminatory practices that target or exclude groups or individuals based on protected grounds such as race, sex, disability, age, marital or family status, employment status, political opinion, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity. Discrimination

  • All employees in New Zealand must receive the minimum standards of employment (provided they meet the eligibility requirements). These standards include being paid the relevant minimum wage and being allowed parental leave, annual leave, sick leave, family violence leave, bereavement leave and public holidays. There also is a requirement for all parties to an employment relationship to deal with each other in good faith. Minimum Standards in Employment

  • All employees in New Zealand must have a written employment agreement, either by having an individual employment agreement or by being covered by a collective agreement. This agreement is a contract and must contain certain information including the rate of pay and a plain language explanation of how an employee can raise a personal grievance. In addition to mandatory requirements, several other clauses are useful to include in the employment agreement, such as a notice period and any other negotiated terms. Employment Agreements

  • The terms and conditions of an employment agreement must be mutually agreed without coercion and there are fair bargaining requirements. The employee must be given adequate time to review the agreement and seek independent advice, should they wish, before entering into the agreement.

  • The right to organise and bargain collectively is expressly protected by the Employment Relations Act 2000. Discrimination against an employee due to whether or not they are a member of a union or involved in union activities is expressly prohibited. Trade Unions

  • Strikes and lock-outs are governed by the Employment Relations Act 2000. It is only lawful to strike or lock-out if it relates to collective bargaining or is based on health and safety reasons. In either scenario, there are strict requirements and conditions that must be met. Strikes and Lock-outs

  • Employees must have the legal right to work in New Zealand, which includes being a citizen, permanent resident or holding a current visa that allows the work to be undertaken. Right to Work in New Zealand

  • All employers need to pay employee at least the relevant minimum wage for every hour worked, whether or not the employee is on a wage or a salary. Remuneration

  • The process for terminating an employee’s employment is subject to the requirements of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Termination of Employment