Identify and minimise labour rights issues in your business

Employers can take steps to identify and minimise labour rights issues in their 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, employers can take the following steps.

Identify labour rights issues in your business

As an employer, you should be proactive in looking for labour rights issues in your business.

Start checking if 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 using these tools:

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

Employment standards: employer self-assessment checklist [PDF 631KB]

Employment standards: employer self-assessment guide [PDF 1.2MB]

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: Contractor versus employee
  • Check that 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 employee
  • Make sure that 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)
  • Make sure you allow employees to join unions if they want to, and allow them to go to at least two union meetings a year. Also make sure you treat union and non-union workers equally. Unions 

Minimise labour rights non-compliance in your business

You can be proactive in minimising risks of labour rights issues in your business by:

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 (external link) – an internationally recognised code of labour practice
  • information on how to report employment issues confidentially – this may be critical to making your code effective. 

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

Air New Zealand Code of Conduct [PDF 510KB] (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 websites of Employment New Zealand and WorkSafe New Zealand (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 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. For example, see our self-assessment checklist on this page, and Pay for leave and holidays guidance.
  • Make sure your human resources policy protects employment rights, fair treatment of workers and equal opportunities.
  • Make sure you have an easily accessible process that lets workers raise issues and address their questions, concerns and disputes.

Educating workers (including managers) on employment responsibilities and rights

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

Educate workers by doing the following:

  • Make sure that all your managers complete our free online learning modules for employers.
  • Encourage all workers 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 staff.
  • Email us to create an administration account for the courses. An account will let you register, monitor and generate reports on workers’ learning.

Learning modules for employers and employees

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Page last revised: 12 October 2022

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