What are you entitled to?

Landing your new job is very exciting and you probably can’t wait to get started.

As you scan through your new job offer, initialling pages wildly and searching feverishly for that dotted line to sign on before someone changes their mind about hiring you, take some time to check that every detail is present and correct.

That includes making sure you’re getting what you’re legally entitled to. While in some cases you can negotiate aspects of your employment agreement, there is some standard information that should be included.

So, no matter how awesome your new employer seems, read your employment agreement thoroughly to ensure you’re happy with all the conditions, or want to change any.

Minimum rights

New Zealanders employed in a full time, part time, casual or fixed term role are legally entitled to the following standard terms in their employment agreement:

  • The employment agreement itself. There must always be a written agreement between the employer and employee, signed by both and with a copy each.

  • Four weeks’ paid annual holiday per year.

  • Income that is at least minimum wage.

  • 11 public holidays per year, and payment of time and a half for working these days.

  • Five days’ paid sick leave per annum after first 6 months, and up to 15 days can be carried over to a maximum of 20 days.

  • Three days’ paid bereavement leave for certain family members, one day for other people.

  • Up to 52 weeks’ parental leave.

  • Paid breaks.

  • The agreement should include a description of how any potential disputes between you and your employer would be resolved, including personal grievances, and how restructuring would be handled.

What can you negotiate?

Minimum rights that can be negotiated on include:

  • extra holidays

  • higher salary anywhere above minimum wage and a higher overtime rate

  • more than the minimum number of sick days, bereavement leave or parental leave

  • how, and how often, you get paid could be negotiable. Does your employer pay monthly, but the thought of wrangling your weekly budget into a four-week stretch terrifies you? Ask if changing this is an option.

Other things to ponder before you sign include:

  • whether your employer could offer you flexible working arrangements

  • any health and safety concerns you may have

  • whether you’re on a trial period and, if so, what the terms of this and the assessment criteria for your trial are

  • whether you are, or want to be, part of a union

  • whether you’re required to take leave during your employer’s shut down period - if they have one - e.g. Christmas and New Year.

See 'Negotiating the Terms' for more information.

Is everything present and correct?

It seems obvious, but it’s always a good idea to check the basic details for wrong or omitted information or even typos. Including:

  • your, and the company’s, names

  • your duties. Is everything there, and is it what you thought you were signing up for? Any unusual tasks you didn’t know about?

  • the hours of work

  • your pay

  • your employment status. Are you full-time, fixed term, casual, part-time?

Once you’ve signed your employment contract, it is legally binding and can’t be changed without the agreement of both you and your employer.

It’s up to you – and your new employer – to ensure everyone is on the same page right from the start.

If you’re unsure, have a lawyer or savvy friend or family member run their eye over it before you put pen to paper.

More information

Head to employment.govt.nz to find out more.