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Individual rights & freedoms

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

Shops, banks and other businesses

Human Rights Act 1993, s 44

It’s illegal for a business to refuse to deal with you or to treat you less favourably than other people on any of the illegal grounds of discrimination. This includes not just shops but also banks, loan companies, and finance or insurance companies.

It’s also illegal for any business to refuse to let you enter their premises if it’s a place that’s otherwise open to the public – like a cinema or bus.

Exceptions that allow discrimination by shops and businesses

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 43, 45–52

There are many exceptions in this area. These are some of them:

  • Disabilities – Facilities and services don’t have to be provided in special ways for people with disabilities if it would be unreasonable to require this. It’s also legal to refuse access to a person with a disability if their disability presents a risk (including a risk of infection) to that person or others, but not if the risk can be reduced to a normal level without unreasonable disruption. For more information, see the chapter “Disability rights”, under “Access to shops, transport and other services”.
  • Insurance – Insurance companies can discriminate on the basis of sex, disability or age.
  • Lower charges – A person can be charged less for goods and services on the basis of their age, disability or employment status. (This is positive discrimination.)


COVID-19: Access to services

    The COVID-19 Protection framework allows some shops and businesses to require you to show you have a vaccine pass before entering the shop or premises. Vaccine passes are documents issued by the Ministry of Health. You can only get a vaccine pass if you have been vaccinated or are exempt from being vaccinated.

    Some places and activities are not allowed to use vaccine passes. You don’t need to show a vaccine pass for business or activities who provide essential services.

    Essential services that should never ask for a vaccination pass include:

    • supermarkets, dairies and food banks
    • pharmacies
    • petrol stations
    • public transport services (except air travel)
    • essential health services, like primary care services, specialist clinics, laboratories and imaging services, public and private hospitals, maternity care, hospice services, oral healthcare services, mental health care services, ambulances and emergency care;
    • aged residential care services
    • public housing, social housing and emergency housing
    • out of school care and recreation.

    To check the what places can ask you to have a vaccine pass before entering, visit www.covid19.govt.nz/traffic-lights/covid-19-protection-framework

Next Section | Renting a flat

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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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