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Sex workers: Your rights

Health and safety in sex work

Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor, a brothel operator has to make sure your workplace is safe and healthy for everyone who is there, including sex workers.

More than that, whenever you are doing sex work, you are “at work” and protected by the health and safety laws. See the chapter, “Employment conditions and protections”, under “Health and safety protections”.

Safer sex

Operators have a specific duty to make sure all sex workers and clients follow safer sex practices. Since sex work was decriminalised in 2003, several clients have been prosecuted for refusing to use condoms.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault

Crimes Act 1961; Case: [2014] NZHRRT 6

Sexual harassment at work is illegal, and that applies to sex workers just like anyone else. See the chapter, “Resolving employment problems”, under “Unfair treatment, discrimination or harassment at work”.

Sexual assault is any sexual contact that you don’t consent to. Sex workers, like anyone else, can withdraw consent for any kind of sexual activity, at any time. If someone forces sexual contact on you, that is a crime.

So the following kinds of things are illegal – they’re either sexual harassment or the crime of sexual assault:

  • a client groping you in a waiting room, or at any time when you’re not providing sexual services
  • a client doing something or forcing you to do something that you haven’t agreed to
  • offensive or unwelcome sexual behaviour, including offensive jokes and explicit posters that have a significant effect on your wellbeing.
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Starting and leaving a job

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal information, advice and education about employment law issues.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Free phone: 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

For translated employment information go to www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/rights-and-responsibilities/minimum-rights-of-employees-translations/#minimum

Reporting migrant exploitation


Make a complaint to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment about migrant exploitation with this online form.

If you need help completing the form or would like to speak to an interpreter, call 0800 200 088 between 8:00am – 5:30pm, Monday to Friday. You will be connected with an interpreter after you say the name of the language you speak.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective


A nationwide organisation run by sex workers for sex workers. They provide information and services for people who are doing sex work or thinking about doing sex work.

Phone (04) 382 8791
Mobile and media inquiries: 027 496 0700
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz

Migrant worker organisations

Union Network of Migrants – UNEMIG


Part of FIRST Union

Phone: 0800 863477

Migrant Workers Association


Email: help@migrantworkers.org.nz

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