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Minimum Employee Rights

Published May 9, 2018 (last updated on April 11, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Employers have a responsibility to uphold minimum employee rights and protect staff in the workplace.

Every full-time, part-time, fixed-term and casual employee in New Zealand has a legal right to minimum employment entitlements. These standards are applicable by law and designed to make workplaces safer and fairer for everyone. An employer cannot force an employee to agree to less than the minimum standards, but employers and employees can negotiate for better terms in an individual or collective agreement.

What do the Minimum Rights cover?

In New Zealand, all employees and employers are entitled to the following benefits:

  • minimum pay wage

  • equal pay and equal rights

  • health and safety

  • accurate record keeping

  • break entitlements

  • public holidays and annual holidays

  • sick leave

  • bereavement leave

  • parental leave and parental leave payments

  • flexible working arrangements

  • trial periods

  • the right to join a union

Employers who do not comply with the minimum standards may incur a penalty from the Employment Relations Authority. These breaches can be up to $50,000 for individuals and over $100,000 for companies depending on the financial gain earned from the breach. These penalties also apply to employers who do not follow proper health and safety guidelines.

An employer cannot force an employee to sign an agreement that contradicts or offers less than minimum entitlements. Even if an employee does not sign an employment agreement or agrees to less than the minimum standard, they are still entitled to their minimum employee rights under employment law.

What are the Minimum Employment Rights?

The following is a list of the minimum employee rights in greater detail:

  • four weeks of paid annual holiday per year

  • 12 public holidays per year

  • up to 52 weeks’ parental leave

  • five days of paid sick leave per year after the first six months, and an extra 15 days can be carried over to a maximum of 20 days

  • three days’ paid bereavement leave for certain family members, one day for non-family members

  • rest and meal breaks must be provided or compensated for

  • all rest breaks are paid

  • relevant minimum wage paid

  • overtime paid at minimum wage per hour

  • payment of wages to be made in cash

  • unpaid leave while on jury duty

These are just some of the minimum rights and obligations that employers and employees must abide by. Every employment agreement is different depending on the industry, job title and the organisation itself. But the entitlements can never be less than the minimum standard.

Negotiating employment rights

These employee rights are only the minimum that employers are legally required to provide, including those set out in a casual employment contract. It is not uncommon for employers to offer greater entitlements than what they are expected to give. This is usually an incentive to keep workers happy, be more productive and less likely to leave for another company.

Employees also have the right to negotiate on the terms and conditions of their employment agreement. This can be done as an individual or collective group who can bargain on terms such as better rates of pay, more annual leave, flexible working arrangements and much more.

Negotiations can be complex and it is important to take the right approach. Before jumping into a negotiation session, it is recommended to get professional advice from a workplace relations specialist.

For advice on minimum entitlements in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 568 048.

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