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.