Know Your Rights at Work

Employment Agreements

  • Employment agreements are contracts between employers and workers ('individual agreements'), or employers, workers and unions ('collective agreements'). They cover things like hours of work, rates of pay and holidays.
  • Your employer must put your agreement in writing and give you a copy if you ask. It is good to ask for a written copy of your agreement in case you have disagreement with your employer later.
  • Your employer must tell you that you can seek independent advice before coming to any agreement, and they must give you time to seek that advice.

    Even if you do not have a written agreement, there are rights you always have in your job.

    It does not matter whether you are full-time, part-time, temporary or casual.
    These are:


  • (From 1 April 2008) At least $12.00 per hour (16 years or over) unless on new entrant wage, which is $9.60 until 200 hours or three months of work are completed, whichever is less.

    Payment of wages

  • The employer generally needs to get your written consent to make deductions from your pay, or to pay your wages in a form other than cash, unless the employment agreement allows otherwise.

    Equal pay & equal rights

  • The employer cannot pay different rates to employees based on gender.
  • Also, in most cases, the employer cannot discriminate in hiring or firing, training or promoting because of the employee's race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital or family status, employment status, age, religious belief or political opinion, or if they have a disability.


  • Four weeks paid leave a year (or if you work part-time, holidays for the days in a week which you would normally work, spread over 3 weeks) after a year in the job; or if you are a casual worker or a temporary worker you are entitled to 8% of your gross earnings as holiday pay. You are entitled to holiday pay if you work for a period of less than one year.
  • If your employment ends the remainder of your holidays may be taken as holiday pay. These must be shown separately on your pay slip.

    Public Holidays

  • 11 paid days a year if they fall on days you usually work. You can agree to work any of these days, but you can't generally be fired for refusing to work a public holiday. But, if your employment agreement specifically requires you to work on public holidays then a sudden refusal to work these days may result in you being subject to disciplinary action.
  • You are entitled to a day's holiday in lieu plus payment at a rate of time and a half if you work on a public holiday.

    Special Leave

    After six months with an employer, an employee is entitled to sick leave of:

  • Five days paid sick leave a year
    This is for sickness (your own, your partner's, or a dependant's sickness or injury). Sick leave can be carried over to a maximum of 20 days. An employer can require proof of sickness or injury if you are sick or injured for 3 or more days in a row. You cannot be paid out for any sick leave that you have not taken.

    After six months with an employer, an employee is entitled to paid bereavement leave of:

  • three days on the death of a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or the spouse's parent; and
  • one day if the employer accepts that the employee has suffered a bereavement
  • Casual workers have special leave rights too, as long as you have worked an average of 10 hrs per wk and at least one hour a week or 40 hrs a month over the past 6 months.

    A safe workplace

  • If you think that your workplace is unsafe and hazardous to your health, you should notify your employer. If your employer does not act or respond to your concerns, call Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) on 0800 20 90 20 or visit a=ref

    Maternity / Parental Leave

  • If you are pregnant you are entitled to take maternity leave of up to 14 weeks, if you have been employed by the same employer for an average of 10 hours a week over the previous 12 months or 6 months.
  • You are entitled to either your gross weekly rate of pay (your pay before tax) or $391.28, whichever is lower. Maternity leave must be taken in one continuous period.
  • You may take an extended leave (unpaid) of up to 38 weeks provided that you had 12 months of employment with the employer before the due date of the birth. The total combined leave is 52 weeks. Similar provisions apply for adoptive parents.
  • Father's are also entitled to take unpaid paternity leave of up to two weeks (as part of the 52 weeks maternity and extended leave provided for mothers). Remember you are free to try to get your employer to agree to more than these rights.

    Fair treatment

  • No sexual harassment. For example : your boss or other staff members cannot touch you in any way you do not want, make sexual suggestions to you or have magazines that offend you at work.
  • Generally, there can be no changes in your employment agreement without you agreeing. Your employer should consult with you if they are intending to change your employment agreement in any way.
  • No unfair treatment by your employer because you do or do not belong to a union.
  • If you think your have been treated unfairly you may be able to bring a 'personal grievance action' (a case about unfair treatment) against your employer. Get advice from your Union on how to move forward in this kind of situation.

    Unfair dissmissals

  • Your employer must tell you if they are unhappy with your conduct or performance at work and give you reasons for why they feel this way.
  • They must let you know how serious the problem is, especially if you could be dismissed. If you think it is serious it can help to get an 'advocate' (your union organiser) to support you at any meetings with your employer.
  • Unless it is serious misconduct (e.g. stealing or assault) you must get warnings and a chance to improve your work before you are dismissed. Your employer can instantly dismiss you for serious misconduct.
  • However, before your employer can dismiss you, they must hold a fair investigation and tell you what they find out. They must allow you to put forward your side of the story. Your employer must take this into account before deciding whether to dismiss you. They should also allow you the opportunity to organise representation at any meetings that are held with you.
    If your employer decides to dismiss you, both their decision and their actions in doing so must be fair and reasonable.
  • If you think you have been unfairly dismissed:
    You should contact your delegate at work and then the organiser for your industry at Unite Union.
    You only have 60 days from when you realise you have been dismissed to ask your employer for written reasons for your dismissal and 90 days to raise a 'personal grievance' to your employer.


  • An employer must deal with you in 'good faith' and not do anything to mislead or deceive you
  • You can negotiate with your employer to try to get them to agree with what you want. You can get a union advocate (organiser) to help you do this. Ask your delegate for more information.
  • Your employer must always treat you fairly - if you think your employer has been unfair, get some advice - you may be able to take a personal grievance action.