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Your legal rights as a worker: Where they come from

Your guaranteed minimum rights that come from outside your employment agreement

Rights set by Acts like the Employment Relations Act

The Employment Relations Act sets out the basic legal framework for things such as negotiating and entering into employment agreements, belonging to a union, going on strike, and resolving employment problems (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”).

Other Acts set out minimum conditions that apply to all employees (although you’re also free to negotiate better conditions with your employer). For example, the Holidays Act 2003 sets out your minimum rights to annual leave, public (“statutory”) holidays, sick leave and bereavement leave, while minimum wage rates are provided for by the Minimum Wage Act 1983 (see the chapter “Employment conditions and protections”).

Other Acts give you minimum protections in certain areas. For example, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires your employer to provide a safe workplace, while the Human Rights Act 1993 requires employers to treat all employees equally, regardless of factors such as race, gender and marital status (see the chapter “Discrimination”).

Basic rights and obligations implied into all employment agreements

The courts treat some basic obligations as being implied in all employment agreements, regardless of an agreement’s specific terms.

An employer’s basic obligations that are implied in any employment relationship are to:

  • pay you your wages as agreed
  • provide you with a safe workplace
  • not discriminate against you on any of the illegal grounds, such as race, gender, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation or political opinion
  • treat you fairly and reasonably, and
  • not act in a way that destroys the relationship of trust and confidence between you.

Your basic obligations that are implied in your employment relationship are to:

  • obey your employer’s lawful and reasonable instructions
  • show due care and competence in doing your job
  • not act in a way that harms your employer’s reputation – for example, by being convicted of certain types of offences
  • not act in a way that harms your employer’s interests – for example, leaking confidential information
  • be honest.

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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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