Employment Law

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Under New Zealand employment law, your employer must treat you fairly, pay you at least the minimum wage, maintain a safe workplace and meet their obligations. 

Employment disputes in NZ can cause significant stress as they can impact your livelihood, health and reputation.  

Who is an employee under employment law?

In New Zealand, an employee is someone who has agreed to be employed under a contract of service for some form of payment. Employees may work full-time, part-time, casually or seasonally. An employee is not;

  • Self-employed 
  • An independent contractor 
  • A volunteer 

Employment agreement

Every New Zealand employee must have a written employment agreement. A clearly written employment agreement helps make clear both the employer’s and employee’s responsibilities and entitlements. Each agreement must include: 

  • An employee’s duties 
  • The basis of employment (such as full-time, part-time etc) 
  • Hours of work (including whether employees are to work on public holidays) 
  • The basis on which an employee is paid (such as an hourly rate, salary or commission) 
  • How any employment relationship problems are to be resolved 

Time limit for raising a personal grievance under NZ employment law

You have 90 days to raise a personal grievance with your employer (except for sexual harassment). It’s therefore important to act quickly and contact experienced employment lawyers in NZ if you have an employment law problem.  

Why choose Shine’s employment lawyers in NZ

We have employment lawyers in Auckland and employment lawyers in Christchurch. No matter your location, our experienced employment lawyers in NZ can confidentially give employment law advice and assist in resolving employment relationship problems.  

Shine’s employment lawyers in NZ can also help youwith mediation and with progressing claims in the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court. 

How Shine’s employment lawyers in NZ can help you

Shine’s employment lawyers in Auckland and employment lawyers in Christchurch can provide employee legal advice in NZ in relation to: 


An employment redundancy is when an employee’s position is no longer needed. Redundancies under NZ employment law must be genuine, and follow the workplace change process.  

If you think that a redundancy or restructure is not genuine or that your employer is not following the correct process, you may be eligible for a personal grievance payout in NZ.  

Employment law requires you to file a claim for a personal grievance within 90 days of being made redundant or being aware that your position will be made redundant. We urge you to act quickly and contact our employment lawyers in NZ.

Contract for services

In New Zealand, independent contractors aren’t covered by most employment laws, as they are not ‘employees’ hired under employment agreements. Independent contractors include self-employed people. 

Employers are increasingly using contractors or outsourcing to fill the roles typically occupied by employees. The reasons for this may be to cut costs, provide flexibility and employ experts for specific projects.  

Independent contractors are engaged under a ‘contract for services’, which usually don’t include the same protections as an employment agreement (such as annual leave, sick leave or a personal grievance process).  

New Zealand’s general civil laws determine the responsibilities and rights of independent contractors. Shine’s employment law experts can advise on your contract for service or if you have an employment dispute 

You have been fired

If an employer wants to dismiss an employee legally, they must: 

  • Have a good reason for the dismissal 
  • At all times, act in good faith 
  • Be open-minded, and not have a pre-determined outcome in mind 
  • Follow a fair and reasonable process for the dismissal

If your dismissal is unjustifiedyou may have an opportunity to make a personal grievance claim against your employer. This may lead to your reinstatement or a personal grievance payout. 

Being dismissed can be a difficult and stressful time. It’s important to get prompt employment law advice as there are strict time limits for filing a personal grievance claim. Shine’s employment lawyers in Auckland and employment lawyers in Christchurch can meet you for a confidential consultation about your situation.  

Disciplinary meeting

Under New Zealand employment law, a disciplinary meeting may be called if there’s an allegation of serious misconduct against you 

Your employer must follow a fair process, which may be detailed in your written employment agreement. If there’s no agreed process, there must be a good reason for your employer to start a disciplinary process, and you must be informed about it in writing. 

As the disciplinary process may end in your being dismissed, it’s recommended you seek employment law advice as soon as possible. Get in touch with Shine’s employment law team to arrange a confidential consultation about your situation.

Performance management process

Your employers should routinely monitor their employees’ performance. When there is a perceived issue with performance, your employer can initiate a performance management process or performance improvement plan (PIP).   

This is different from a disciplinary process for a misconduct issue. However, failure to meet the PIP objectives may lead to your dismissal from employment. 

The performance management process can therefore be very stressful for employees.  

If you have been made aware of a performance management process or PIP regarding your employment, our employment law team can help you through this process. 

Poor treatment by an employer

New Zealand employees are entitled to a safe and positive workplace. You have a personal grievance claim or another issue with your employer, if you have experienced, for example: 

  • Discrimination by your employer 
  • An unsatisfactory PIP process 
  • Workplace bullying or harassment  
  • Discrimination (for example, on grounds of race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation) 
  • Issues relating to sick leave 
  • Disadvantage and unfair treatment 
  • Underpayment 
  • Unfair contract hours or conditions 
  • Mental health or wellbeing issues 

It can be difficult to address these issues directly with your employer, particularly if they’re the party responsible for the poor treatment. We can help you discreetly manage your unfair treatment at work in NZ and advise you on any potential personal grievance claim. 

Contact us for confidential employee legal advice in NZ  

All discussions with lawyers are private and confidential. This allows you to be open, honest and transparent so that we can correctly advise you on resolving your employment law claim. Our confidentiality means that there is no reason for your employer or any other person to find out about any discussions we have. 

Time limits

If you have a personal grievance with your employer, it must be raised within 90 days of when it arose or came to your attention (unless it involves sexual harassment). It’s important to act quickly.  

Get in touch for employment law advice

Contact Shine Lawyers NZ today if you need employment law advice. We can first offer a half hour teleconference consultation, followed by tailored written employment law advice for a fixed fee, to assess your matter and provide general advice and advise if we can offer ongoing assistance. 

What is the legal process for employment law claims?

Shine Lawyers work closely with our clients to explain the legal process and help you to clearly understand your rights. While no two claims are the same, a general outline of the legal process is provided below. 

Frequently asked questions about employment law

What is unfair dismissal in employment law

In New Zealand, you can bring a personal grievance claim against your employer if you believe there are grounds that you’ve been unfairly fired (or unjustifiably dismissed). The unfairness could be, for example, that you don’t believe your employer: 

  • Had a good reason to dismiss you 
  • Followed a fair process to dismiss you 

Are there employment lawyers in NZ near me?

No matter what workplace problem you’re facing, Shine’s employment lawyers in Auckland and employment lawyers in Christchurch can help you stand up for your legal rights and get the resolution you deserve.   

With branches in Auckland and Christchurch and virtual appointments virtual appointments, location is no barrier when it comes to accessing Shine Lawyers’ employment law advice and support. Shine’s employment law experts include some of the firm’s most experienced solicitors and support staff, who can confidentially advise you.

Who is Shine Lawyers New Zealand's Employment Law team?

Shine Lawyers’ Employment Law team includes some of the firm’s most experienced solicitors and support staff. The team includes:

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