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Individual rights & freedoms

Jobs, shops, flats and other areas of life where discrimination is illegal

Jobs and employment

Applying for jobs

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 19(2); Human Rights Act 1993, ss 22(1), 20L

If you’re qualified for the relevant job, it’s illegal for an employer to refuse or fail to hire you on any of the illegal grounds of discrimination, or to offer you or hire you on less favourable pay or work conditions than other people with similar qualifications. This applies whether the employer is a private business or a government organisation.

Advertising, application forms and interviews

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 23, 67

It’s illegal for employers to publish or display any advertising that indicates they intend to discriminate illegally. It’s also illegal for a potential employer to give you a job application form or to ask you questions that indicate they will discriminate illegally.

Questions about criminal convictions

Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004

It’s not illegal for an employer to ask if you have a criminal record. However, you have the right, in some situations, not to tell employers about your criminal convictions. To be able to do this you must not have had any convictions in the last seven years, and you must have never been sentenced to prison (see “The clean slate scheme” in the chapter “The criminal courts”). This means that even if the employer asks you directly, you can tell them that you have no criminal record.

Being discriminated against in your current job

Human Rights Act 1993, s 22(1); Equal Pay Act 1972; Employment Relations Act 2000,
s 103(1)(c)

It’s illegal for your boss to discriminate against you in any of the following ways:

  • offering you or employing you on less favourable conditions than those offered or granted to other people with the same or similar qualifications
  • disadvantaging you at work when other employees aren’t treated the same way
  • dismissing you or making you retire or resign.

Human Rights Act 1993, s 2

Those protections apply to contract workers as well as to employees.

Note: If your boss discriminates against you because of your gender, you can either take a claim against them to the Employment Relations Authority (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”) or complain to the Human Rights Commission (see “Taking action: What you can do if you’re discriminated against” later in this chapter).

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Human Rights Commission


Human Rights Commission InfoLine

Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Text enquiries: 0210 236 4253

A free phone and email information service that you can use for enquiries about your rights or to make a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993.


You can access pamphlets and fact sheets online or order hard copies from:
Phone: 0800 496 877
Email: resources@hrc.co.nz

Race Relations Commissioner


Phone: 0800 496 877

This section of the Human Rights Commission focuses specifically on ensuring people are not treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour or country of origin.

Human Rights Review Tribunal


This website provides information about the Tribunal and the hearing process and it also has forms, guides and information about fees.

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