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Identifying and minimising 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:

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 2.3MB]

Employment standards: employer self-assessment guide [PDF 2.3MB]

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

  • Check that workers who are being engaged as independent contractors are really contractors, rather than employees. The true nature of the working relationship should be considered. For more information see: 
    Contractor versus employee
  • Check that your employee’s work arrangements (full-time, part-time, casual) reflect their pattern of work. If a 'casual' worker has developed a regular working pattern they may become entitled to earn and be able to take paid leave. Make sure there are genuine reasons to have someone on a fixed-term agreement. See: 
    Types of employee
  • Ensure migrant workers have lawful immigration status to work in New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand has some useful tools to help with this:
    VisaView tool – Immigration New Zealand (external link)

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

You can use a business code of conduct or policy to communicate the aspirations, values and desired behaviours of your organisation. Within the code of conduct, specific statements on employment conditions will set out the rules for your workplace and tell your workers what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. A code of conduct is important as it:

  • shows your staff behaviours that are acceptable in your organisation
  • encourages your staff to follow those standards and feel empowered to speak up if the code is breached.

Developing the content of a code of conduct

Your business code of conduct should include at least the following points:

  • General sections which include expected behaviours, business ethics, treatment of workers, and environmental standards.
  • A statement that the business will comply with all relevant legislation, which at a minimum will detail employment standards and other employment relations legislation.
  • Specific sections about the fair treatment of workers. This may include International Labour Organisation (ILO) core convention elements. For example, Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code (external link)
  • A system for the confidential reporting of employment issues, which may be critical to ensure that your code is effective. Please note:
    • an informal and anonymous reporting system will help staff to raise issues to you
    • the system is important if your industry is not unionised
    • the system is important when your business has vulnerable workers, (eg migrants, young or older staff) who may not be confident to speak up
    • the system may allow you to fix any problems early, reduce your risks of getting adverse publicity, and/or court costs or penalties for breaches of the law.

As an example, see the Air New Zealand Code of Conduct. This is suitable for a large company with international operations. If your organisation is smaller in size or scope of operations, you may find that some of would be more useful to your business.

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

You need to also have proper systems and processes in place to help achieve the goals in your business code of conduct:

  • Have effective Human Resources (HR) and payroll systems and processes in place, and test them regularly for compliance with relevant legislation. For example see our self-assessment checklist on this page, and Pay for leave and holidays guidance.
  • Have an HR policy which includes protection of employment rights, fair treatment of employees and equal opportunities.
  • Have an easily accessible HR process for employees to raise issues and address their questions, concerns and disputes.

Educating and training your managers and workers

You should make sure your staff are aware of their employment responsibilities and rights as they are in a good position to ensure your business’s ethics and aims are promoted and implemented correctly.

You can achieve this by providing work-based learning and development, including the following options:

  • Making sure that all your managers complete the online learning modules for employers.
  • Giving access and encouraging all employees to do the online learning modules for employees, starting with the 'Introduction to employment rights' module.
  • Creating an administration account for the modules on behalf of your business so you can register, monitor, and report on your staff users. To create an administration account email your request to Employment New Zealand.
  • Investing in any other relevant training and qualifications for staff.

Online learning modules for employers and employees

Page last revised: 03 July 2020

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