Identifying and minimising labour rights issues in your business

Information for employers about how to identify and minimise labour rights issues in your business.

To reduce the market and legal risks of non-compliance to your business, and to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees, you can take the following steps.

Identifying labour rights issues

As an employer, you should proactively look for labour rights issues in your business.

Start checking whether your organisation has ethical and sustainable work practices by examining what your vision, mission and values statements say about how your organisation values and treats workers. These statements set the scene for everything that happens in your organisation, so it is important that they are explicit.

You can check that your business is meeting employment standards by:

  • completing the 'Employment standards: employer self-assessment checklist' to assess your compliance
  • reading the 'Employment standards: employer self-assessment guide' for supporting information.

Employer self-assessment checklist [PDF, 654 KB]

Employer self-assessment guide [PDF, 934 KB]

As well as completing the self-assessment checklist, you should make sure:

  • your contractors are really contractors, not employees. For example, how much do you control their working arrangements? For more information see:

Employee or contractor?

  • employees’ work patterns match their contracts. Are casual workers actually working regular hours? Do you have a genuine reason to employ someone on a fixed-term contract instead of a permanent one? See:

Types of worker

  • workers are legally allowed to work in New Zealand. Use Immigration New Zealand’s online VisaView tool to check passport information if you need to

VisaView tool – Immigration New Zealand(external link)

  • you allow employees to join unions if they want to, and allow them to go to at least 2 union meetings a year. Also make sure you treat union and non-union workers equally.


Minimise labour rights non-compliance

You can proactively minimise the risk of labour rights issues in your business by:

  • creating and communicating a code of conduct for your own business
  • ensuring you have robust systems and processes in place
  • educating workers, including managers, about employment responsibilities and rights.

Creating and communicating a code of conduct for your own business

A code of conduct tells workers what your organisation’s goals, values and rules are. It can empower workers to speak up if the code is breached. A code of conduct statement is similar but less detailed. If your organisation is not ready for a detailed code of conduct, develop a code of conduct statement instead.

A code of conduct should include at least:

  • your values, business ethics and environmental standards, alongside the behaviours you expect
  • a statement that confirms your organisation will follow employment-related laws
  • information on how you will treat workers fairly, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code – an internationally recognised code of labour practice
  • information on how to report employment issues confidentially – this may be critical to making your code effective. 

Ethical Training Initiative Base Code – Ethical Trading Initiative(external link)

As an example, see the Air New Zealand Code of Conduct. This is suitable for a large company with international operations.

Corporate and Social Responsibility Policies – Air New Zealand(external link)

Developing a code of conduct statement

If your business is not ready to develop and implement a detailed code of conduct yet, you may want to produce an initial code of conduct statement instead.

Your initial business code of conduct statement can be as simple as the following key messages.

  1. We are committed to providing you with a safe and healthy workplace.
  2. We are committed to providing you with all of your employment rights and entitlements.
  3. You can find out more about your employment and health and safety entitlements on the Employment New Zealand and WorkSafe New Zealand websites.

Home – Employment New Zealand

Home – WorkSafe(external link)

You should use your internal communication channels including emails, posters and newsletters to tell your workers about your code of conduct statement.

Ensuring your business has robust systems and processes in place

Good systems and processes will help you to meet undertakings in your code of conduct, or code of conduct statement. Make sure:

  • your payroll systems and processes are effective. Test them regularly to see that they comply with the law. For example, check that you are paying workers correctly for leave and holidays. See our self-assessment checklist on this page and read our guidance about pay for leave and holidays.
  • your human resources policy protects employment rights, fair treatment of workers and equal opportunities.
  • you have an easily accessible process that lets workers raise issues and address their questions, concerns and disputes.

Holidays and leave pay

Educating employees (including managers) on employment responsibilities and rights

If your employees know their employment responsibilities and rights, they can promote your code of conduct and help you bring it to life.

Educate employees by doing the following.

  • Make sure that all your managers complete our free online learning modules for employers.
  • Encourage all employees to do our free online learning modules for employees, starting with the ‘Introduction to employment rights’ module.
  • Invest in any other relevant training and qualifications for employees.
  • Email us to create an administration account for the courses. An account will let you register, monitor and generate reports on employees' learning.

Email us a query

Learning modules for employers and employees(external link)

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