Employer obligations 101

As you may have picked up, employment rights are a hot topic at the moment, as both small and large scale employers are being pursued for not getting the basics right.

Below is a summary of some of the key employee entitlements which employers should be aware of:

Minimum wage:

o The minimum adult rate is $17.70 per hour;
o The starting out rate is $14.16 per hour; and
o The training rate is $14.16 per hour.

These are set out in the Minimum Wage Act 1983 and the Government has indicated the minimum adult rate will increase to $18.90 in 2020.

Deductions from wages:

There are only certain circumstances in which an employer can make deductions from an employee’s wages (such as for a lawful purpose, including through a general deductions clause in an employment agreement).

However, an employer cannot make a specific deduction pursuant to a general deductions clause without first consulting the employee and employees can withdraw or vary their consent in writing;


If an employee is a NZ resident/citizen they are automatically enrolled in KiwiSaver and an employer must meet their obligations to provide the requisite KiwiSaver information packs, deduct the employee’s KiwiSaver contribution from their wages, and pay employer contributions (unless the employee chooses to opt out);

Employment agreement:

An employee must have a written employment agreement which contains the compulsory clauses outlined in section 65 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (Act);

Holiday and leave:

Employees are entitled to a number of different types of leave, including 11 public holidays per year. The clauses relating to leave need to be strictly adhered to pursuant to the provisions of the Holidays Act 2003;

Rest and meal breaks:

The timing and duration of these are, once again, prescribed in the Act and these must be adhered to unless alternative agreement is reached (although employees must still receive the prescribed amount of breaks);

Health and safety:

Employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees. This includes protecting employees’ mental health and wellbeing;


Employees, and job applicants, cannot be discriminated against. The prohibited grounds of discrimination are listed in section 21 of the Human Rights Act 1993; and

Employee records:

Employers must also keep holiday, leave, and wage and time records.

Given the significant recent changes to New Zealand’s employment laws, it is important to ensure that your employment agreements (and any policies) are compliant. However, please note that not all statutory entitlements need to be spelled out in an employment agreement – they will simply be implied into any employment relationship (for example, domestic violence leave).

If you have any questions about the above, or you are concerned that your company or your employer is not getting the basics rights, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other workplace law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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