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Where and how you can work as a sex worker

Working in a brothel

Prostitution Reform Act 2003, s  4

New Zealand’s sex work laws call any sex work business a brothel. An operator of a brothel has to have a special licence, and must do things like making sure the sex workers are over 18 and use safer sex practices.

Most sex workers in brothels have signed agreements that say they are “independent contractors,” rather than employees. In practice, whether you are an employee or not will depend on your relationship with the employer (see: “Employees versus contractors”).

Working in a SOOB (“small, owner-operated brothel”) with other sex workers

Prostitution Reform Act 2003, s  4

If up to four sex workers work together, with no boss, the law calls that a “small, owner-operated brothel,” or “SOOB”.

In a SOOB, no-one is in charge of another sex worker, and each person is in control of their own earnings. People working in SOOBs don’t need an operator’s licence.

Working as an independent sex worker

Any sex worker can work for themselves, from their homes, or from somewhere else. You don’t need a licence to do this.

Can I do sex work from home?

Prostitution Reform Act 2003, ss 12–15

It depends on what town you live in, and what kind of home you’re in.

Councils are allowed to make rules about the locations of sex work businesses. Some ban sex work in residential areas, for instance. They can also make rules about advertising that’s visible to the public.

Councils can also make rules about anyone running a business from home, so make sure you are following them. You can phone the council to find out what the rules are in your area.
If you rent your home, your tenancy agreement might say you can’t do sex work from home.

If your home is part of a body corporate (sometimes called a “body corp”) like an apartment building or a set of units, there will probably be a rule in your contract that says you can’t do sex work from home.

Can I “solicit” or do sex work from the street?

Prostitution Reform Act 2003, ss 7, 12–15  Prostitution Bylaw 2009 (Hamilton City Council)

It is legal to offer sex work from the street. This is sometimes called “soliciting”.

The prostitution laws say that councils can make bylaws about the location of brothels, but that’s not supposed to mean they can outlaw sex work.

Hamilton City Council has a bylaw banning soliciting. It’s probably an illegal bylaw, because it re-criminalises prostitution, which undermines the laws that have decriminalised sex work and prostitution. But we won’t know for sure until someone takes a court case against it.

Each council takes a different approach, so check what the rules are in your area.

If you meet your clients through street-based sex work, be aware that there are also laws and bylaws against littering, noise and causing a nuisance, so you need to be careful to follow those laws or you could be arrested and charged for those things.

Did this answer your question?

Starting and leaving a job

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

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

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Starting a job: www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/
Leaving a job: www.employment.govt.nz/ending-employment/

Te Kauae Kaimahi/
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimahi 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.

Website: www.union.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective is 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.

Website: www.nzpc.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: 04 382 8791
Instagram: www.instagram.com/_nzpc/

Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG)

UNEMIG or Union Network of Migrants is an association of migrant workers within FIRST Union.

Website: www.unemig.org.nz
Email: unemig@firstunion.org.nz 
Phone: 0800 863 477

Migrant Workers Association

The Migrant Workers Association NZ fights for migrant workers’ rights and against injustice and exploitation in the workplace.

Website: migrantworkers.org.nz
Email: help@migrantworkers.org.nz
Phone: 0800 863 477
Facebook: www.facebook.com/migrantworkersassociationaotearoa/

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