Home | Browse Topics | Jobs & benefits | Starting and leaving a job | Your employment agreement

Jobs & benefits

Your legal rights as a worker: Where they come from

Your employment agreement

What is an employment agreement?

Your employment agreement sets out the terms and conditions that govern your relationship with your employer.

It can be either:

  • an individual agreement – that is, between one employee and one employer, or
  • a collective agreement – that is, between two or more employees, and one or more employers, and one or more unions.

For more information, see: “Different types of employment agreements and arrangements”.

The terms of your employment agreement include what is in the written agreement, plus any extra terms that you and your employer agree on verbally, and any policies that your employment agreement refers to.

By signing the employment agreement you are legally agreeing to follow all of these terms and policies.

Does my employer have to give me a written agreement?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 54, 64, 65, 235B Employment Relations (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2019, reg 5

Every employee must have a written employment agreement.

If your boss doesn’t provide you with a written agreement, a labour inspector can give them an infringement notice (like a speeding ticket) requiring them to pay a $1,000 fine. Alternatively, you or a labour inspector can ask the Employment Relations Authority (the “ERA”) to order your boss to pay a financial penalty.

Your boss must keep a signed copy of the agreement. They must also give you a copy, if you ask for one. If they breach those rules, the ERA can order them to pay a penalty.

Your rights if you don’t have a written agreement

You have legal rights as an employee even if you don’t have a written employment agreement, because a verbal agreement between you and your employer is still legally valid.

The terms and conditions of your employment relationship will include:

  • the terms and conditions you’ve agreed to verbally
    the normal practices in your workplace
    the protections for employees in the Employment Relations Act
    the minimum conditions and protections guaranteed by Acts like the Holidays Act, Health and Safety at Work Act, and the Wages Protection Act (see: “Employment conditions and protections”)
    the basic obligations that the courts see as implied in all employment relationships.

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/

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top