Employee rights and responsibilities

You are entitled to minimum employment rights and your employer cannot give you less than what is in the law even if you’ve agreed.

Know your minimum employment rights and responsibilities

The law protects you by requiring employers to give you minimum employment rights. These include 4 weeks of holiday a year, sick leave, and a workplace free of discrimination. You also have responsibilities such as being at work when you agreed to be and keeping yourself and other people safe at work.

How the law protects you

The law sets minimum employment rights that your employer must give you. Your employer must:

  • give you a written employment agreement, commonly called a contract
  • pay you at least the minimum wage for all the hours you work
  • pay you in cash, unless you’ve agreed to receive it in a different way such as by direct credit
  • not take (deduct) money from your wages unless the law allows it (such as tax and student loan payments), or you have agreed in writing to have money taken out


  • give you regular rest and meal breaks:
    • for an 8-hour day – two 10-min breaks and one unpaid 30-min lunch break
    • for a 6-hour day – one 10-min break and one unpaid 30-min lunch break
  • give you 4 weeks of paid annual holidays, after you’ve worked for your employer for 12 months

Annual holiday pay

  • give you up to 12 paid public holidays if they fall on a day that you would usually work
  • give you a paid alternative holiday if you’ve worked on a public holiday on a day you would usually work

Public holiday pay

  • give you 10 days of paid sick leave, after you have worked for your employer continuously for 6 months
  • give you bereavement leave, after you’ve worked for your employer continuously for 6 months
  • give you family violence leave, after you’ve worked for your employer continuously for 6 months

Sick leave, bereavement and family violence leave pay

  • provide a workplace that is healthy and safe, and free from discrimination and bullying
  • consider flexible working arrangements
  • allow you to join a union if you want to, without any pressure to join, or not to join
  • talk to you in good faith if there will be any change to the workplace that might negatively affect your hours or role; for example, restructuring

You can also resign at any time by notifying your employer that you’ll be leaving and working the notice period set out in your employment agreement.

Giving notice

Your employer must also keep records about your employment history with them, such as when you worked, for how long and what your wages were. You can ask to see the records your employer has about your employment at any time.


The minimum rights and responsibilities set out in law apply to all employees, even if:

  • they’re not listed in your employment agreement
  • your employment agreement tries to trade minimum rights off against each other
  • your employment agreement includes benefits and rights that are less than required under the law, or
  • you do not have an employment agreement in writing (note: by law, your employer is required to give you one).

Know your employment rights [PDF, 305 KB]

Know your employment rights – other language translations

Your rights

Employment agreements, often called contracts

Your employer must give you a written employment agreement (also called a contract) that sets out the terms and conditions of your job. This can be an individual agreement, or a collective agreement if you are a member of a union.

Even if minimum rights (such as the minimum wage and annual holidays) are not written in your employment agreement, they are legal requirements and still apply. Your employment agreement cannot reduce these or trade them off for other things.

Employment agreements


Your employer must:

  • pay you at least the minimum wage
  • pay you for all the hours you work
  • pay you in cash, unless you've agreed another way (like direct credit) in your employment agreement
  • not deduct any money from your wages, except what is allowed by law, or what you’ve agreed to in writing.

Additionally, your employer must not:

  • charge you a fee for getting or keeping your job (called a premium)
  • direct you on how to spend your money
  • pay you less than others for doing the same, or similar, work because of your sex
  • discriminate against you.

Types of pay



You have the right to regular meal and rest breaks. The number and length of your breaks will depend on how many hours you work at a time.

Hours of work

Rest and breaks

Holidays and leave

All employees must be given at least:

  • 4 weeks of paid annual holidays each year after you've worked continuously for your employer for 12 months
  • up to 12 each year, if they're on days you would normally work
  • a paid if you’ve worked on a public holiday
  • 10 days of paid , after you've worked for your employer continuously for 6 months
  • , after you’ve worked for your employer continuously for 6 months
  • family violence leave
  • parental leave, if you meet the eligibility requirements.

Leave and holidays

If you have other leave provisions in your employment agreement that are better than minimum entitlements, your employer must also comply with your employment agreement.

Your employer must provide a safe workplace, with proper training, supervision and equipment. They must report serious injuries at work to WorkSafe New Zealand.

Managing health and safety - WorkSafe New Zealand(external link)

Minimum rights vs negotiable terms and conditions

The following table has some of the minimum entitlements and lists some examples of where employers and employees have negotiated better terms and conditions in their employment agreements.

Minimum rights Examples of negotiated rights

4 weeks’ paid annual holiday per year

Extra annual holidays above 4 weeks, for example, 5 weeks

Up to 12 public holidays per year

Extra holidays, for example, company holidays, Dominion day

Payment of time-and-a-half for working on public holidays

Higher rates for working on public holidays, for example, double time

10 days’ paid sick leave per annum after first 6 months, and 10 days can be carried over to a maximum of 20 days

Note: Minimum sick leave entitlements increased from 5 to 10 days per year from 24 July 2021. Employees get the extra 5 days per year when they reach their next entitlement date. This will be either after reaching 6 months’ employment or on their sick leave entitlement anniversary (12 months after they were last entitled to sick leave).

More than 10 days’ paid sick leave, no need to wait for 6 months, more than 10 days’ carry over

3 days’ paid bereavement leave for certain family members, 1 day for other people

More than 3 days’ paid bereavement leave

Up to 52 weeks’ parental leave

Comprehensive parental leave entitlements which are more generous

Rest and meal breaks must be provided - Rest break must be paid

More frequent or longer rest breaks, meal break is also paid

Relevant minimum wage must be paid

Wages and salary rates above the minimum wage

Overtime paid at minimum wage per hour

Overtime at more than minimum wage

Payment of wages to be made in cash

Frequency of paydays and how payment is made

Unpaid leave for jury service

Normal pay while on jury service


It’s against the law for your employer to discriminate against you when they are hiring or dismissing, paying, training or promoting you because of your:

  • race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin
  • gender, sex or sexual orientation
  • marital or family status
  • employment status
  • age
  • religious belief or political opinion
  • disability
  • participation in union activities, or
  • if you are affected by family violence.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Flexible working

You can ask your employer to think about a flexible approach to your work. You can ask to change the hours, days, or place of work. You can also ask about how you do your work. Flexible working is not just about working part-time or full-time.

Flexible work


Employees have the right to decide whether to join a union or not. No one is allowed to pressure you to join or not to join.

Union membership

Redundancy, work changes or restructuring

Your employer must consult with you in good faith about any proposed changes at work that are likely to have a negative effect on your work conditions. This includes any changes to your current employment agreement, like fewer hours or days of work.

Restructuring and change

Good faith

Your responsibilities

You also have responsibilities at work. You must:

  • be at work and willing to work during the days and hours and at the times that you agreed to in your employment agreement
  • only be away from work for a valid reason. For example, if you are sick, bereaved or have agreed with your employer in advance to have time off.

Follow all lawful and reasonable requests

You must follow all reasonable requests and requirements from your employer as long as they are:

  • lawful
  • within the scope of your job and your employment agreement, and
  • not dangerous to the health and safety of yourself or others (unless risk is a recognised part of the job; for example, if you are a firefighter).

Keep yourself and others safe

You must:

  • follow all health and safety policies and procedures at work, and
  • avoid causing harm to other people by the way you do your work.

You have the right to refuse work if you believe it will expose you or others to serious health or safety risks.

Exercise reasonable skill and knowledge

If your employer followed a good hiring process and trained you in everything you need to know, you should have the skills and knowledge needed for the job. You should use your skills in a way that protects the employer’s assets and property and makes sure that no one, including yourself, is harmed.

Exercise reasonable care

You must take care when doing your work. This means doing the job to the best of your abilities.

Exercise reasonable behaviour

You must behave reasonably while at work and in some cases even not at work (if your behaviour outside work could reflect badly on your employer). Check your organisation’s rules and policies, such as a code of conduct, which will outline expectations including things like:

  • dress standards, including any uniform requirements
  • use of company computers and email, including for personal use
  • social media policies.

John worked for a supermarket. After work one evening, he and some of his workmates went to the pub across the road for a drink. While there, they got into an argument that ended with John fighting a truck driver who worked for a company that supplied John's employer with food.

John and his workmates were in their supermarket uniforms and could be easily identified. The truck driver complained to the supermarket, and after an investigation, John was dismissed for bringing the supermarket into disrepute (making it look bad) and seriously breaching the trust and confidence in the employment relationship. His workmates got warnings for their part too.

Act in good faith

You must act in ‘good faith’ at work, including:

  • making sure you’re always available for your normal hours of work at your employer’s business
  • respecting the employer’s confidentiality and not sharing work information outside of work
  • not asking for, accepting or getting rewards related to work from third parties without the agreement of your employer, such as travel rewards
  • not promoting yourself to your employer’s customers while you’re still an employee in an attempt to take business from the employer when you leave the job.

Good faith

Your rights and responsibilities when working more than one job

You can have more than 1 job unless your employment agreement says you cannot. You must meet your responsibilities to your employers and keep yourself and others safe at work.

Your rights

Your employer must have a valid reason, based on reasonable grounds, to include something in your employment agreement that says:

  • you cannot work for another person, or
  • you need your employer’s consent to work for another person.

They must put the reason in your employment agreement. Examples of real reasons include:

  • protecting your employer’s commercially sensitive information
  • protecting your employer’s intellectual property rights
  • protecting your employer’s commercial reputation
  • preventing a real conflict of interest that cannot be managed except by preventing secondary employment in your employment agreement
  • health and safety requirements associated with your role, for example, rest breaks for truck drivers.

These reasons will only be good if they are based on reasonable grounds.

Your responsibilities if you have more than one job

You must meet your responsibilities to your employers and keep yourself and others safe at work. This means:

  • you and your employers must act in good faith towards each other, which includes open and honest communication
  • you must not mislead or deceive your employers, or act in a way that damages the business of your employers or breaches confidentiality
  • you have a responsibility to take reasonable care for your own health and safety while you're at work and must take reasonable care that your actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other people.

If you have more than one job, you need to make sure that the hours you work and the nature of the work do not make you so tired that you, or others, are at risk of harm on either job.

Your rights and obligations – WorkSafe New Zealand(external link)

Tax codes for individuals – Inland Revenue(external link)

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