What are your rights at work? Not Sure? Ask the CAB
What are your rights at work? Not Sure? Ask the CAB.
A lot of people go to the Citizens Advice Bureau for help with employment issues and questions. Last year, the CAB was shocked to discover that many of these clients didn’t have a written employment agreement. They were so concerned about this that they published a report about it - Spotlight on CAB clients without employment agreements, September 2017.
“Our report highlighted other breaches of employment rights that CAB clients who did not have an employment agreement were experiencing” noted CAB New Zealand National Advisor, Jayne McKendry. “Unfortunately we know from reviewing more recent enquiries that many of the issues we highlighted in that report are still going on for people. For example, people are still being sacked without a fair process, people are still having the terms of their employment changed on them, without discussion or negotiation, and employers are still using the 90 day trial period in a totally unlawful way.”
An employment agreement is a record of the conditions of work that you have agreed to before you start working - for example your job role, the location and hours of work, rate of pay, and whether you will be working a trial period. If you didn’t get a written copy of the agreement you can ask your employer for one and they must give it to you.
“If you’re an employee, your employer must give you a written employment agreement - it’s the law”, she said.
Even if you don’t have a written employment agreement, you are still entitled to minimum employment rights. For example you can’t be paid less than the minimum wage and once you’ve worked at a place for a while you’re entitled to paid annual leave, sick leave and bereavement leave. Even if you sign an employment agreement that says you’ll be paid $10 per hour, you are entitled to at least the minimum wage (currently $15.25 per hour for an adult).
“And if you are starting a new job and your employer wants you to work a 90 day trial period they can only do this if it’s in your written employment agreement, agreed before you start working for them. During the trial period you are still entitled to the minimum employment rights. 90 day trials also only apply if you haven’t worked for that employer before.”
“If you’re an employer and you think this all sounds too hard, well, there’s an employment agreement builder on the business.govt.nz website which is easy to use. If you follow it through, you can be assured that you are doing right by your employees and meeting your legal requirements. There’s really no excuse not to have a written employment agreement for every employee” Jayne encouraged.
“Our Spotlight report included six recommendations of changes we think would help ensure that employees are not taken advantage of. We’re pleased that government has taken notice of some of these ideas but we still think there is a long way to go to stop employers riding rough-shod over their employees’ basic rights,” Jayne said.
“If you have questions about your employment rights, or how to make sure you do right by your employees, contact your local CAB, or check out the employment and business section of our website www.cab.org.nz”.