We see a lot of people who come to the CAB with employment issues and questions, and it is surprising how often we find that a client doesn’t have a written agreement. We’ve been so concerned about this, that we published a report on it in 2017.
If you’re an employee you must have a written employment agreement - it’s the law.
An employment agreement is a record of the conditions of work that you have agreed to - 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. There’s an employment agreement builder on the business.govt.nz website, and it’s easy to use, so there’s really no excuse not to have a written employment agreement for every employee.
Your employer can’t change any of your employment conditions unless you agree to those changes. The changes need to be recorded on an updated copy of the agreement and signed by both parties.
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 ($15.25 per hour for an adult, as at 8 March 2018).
If your employer wants you to work a trial period, they can only do this if it’s in your written employment agreement and you haven’t worked for that employer before. You also must have signed the employment agreement before you start working for them. During the trial period you are still entitled to the minimum employment rights.
One thing that can catch you out is if you are taken a on as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. It’s an important distinction, because independent contractors aren’t covered by employment law. If the contract you’re asked to sign is titled “Contract for service” then it’s likely you’re being offered work as an independent contractor. You can read more about the differences on our Employee or independent contractor page.
If you have questions about your employment status or your employment rights but can’t find the answers on our website, contact your local CAB.