Home | Browse Topics | Jobs & benefits | Employment conditions and protections | Zero-hour contracts and availability clauses

Jobs & benefits

Hours, shifts and breaks

Zero-hour contracts and availability clauses

How do I know if I have a “zero-hour” contract?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 65(4), 67C-67F

A “zero-hour” contract is where you have no guaranteed hours of work, but you are not allowed to turn down work that is offered to you.

As a general rule, you are usually free to turn down any work that is offered over and above your guaranteed hours (unless your employment agreement includes an “availability clause” – see below).

If you have no guaranteed hours (a “zero-hour” contract), you should have the freedom to turn down hours offered to you, without being disciplined or disadvantaged by your employer.

Note: If you and your employer have verbally agreed on the hours you will work, it is their responsibility to include this in writing, in your employment agreement. The employment agreement should include, amongst other things, the hours and days you will work, and your expected start and finish times. If your employer doesn’t include these details in your employment agreement, you (or a labour inspector) can complain to the ERA. Your employer may be required to pay a penalty for breaching your minimum rights.

What’s an “availability clause”?

Your employment agreement can include a clause that gives your employer some freedom about whether they make work available to you, and when you have to accept the work (“an availability clause”). The availability clause is only valid if:

  • your agreement gives you some guaranteed hours, and
  • you’re paid reasonable compensation (see below) for making yourself available above those guaranteed hours, and
  • your employer has genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for including this availability clause.

What’s “reasonable compensation” for agreeing to an availability clause?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 67D

Relevant factors for what will be reasonable compensation for making yourself available above your guaranteed hours include:

  • how many hours you have to make yourself available for work, and
  • how that number compares to the number of guaranteed hours, and
  • any restrictions placed on you by the clause – for example, if you can’t drink while you’re on call, or if you have to stay local rather than just being available by phone, and
  • your regular pay or salary.
Next Section | Shift work

Did this answer your question?

Employment conditions and protections

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

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Online: communitylaw.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pregnancy-Manual_PDF-for-Web_2021.pdf
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

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
Hours and wages: www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages
Leave and holidays: www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays
Workplace policies: www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah 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@nzctu.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

Labour inspectorate

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa/Worksafe New Zealand

Worksafe is New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator.  The website contains a range of information on workplace health and safety.

Phone: 0800 030 040
Notify Worksafe online: www.worksafe.govt.nz/notify-worksafe

Parental leave payments

For more information on parental leave see Inland Revenue’s website.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies. In the employment context, you can make a protected disclosure (known as whistle-blowing).

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602
Whistle-blowing/protected disclosure information: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/what-ombudsman-can-help/serious-wrongdoing-work-whistleblowing

To make a complaint online: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/get-help-public

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