Getting a job

Getting a job is a life-affirming experience. Meaningful work allows us to maximise our potential and provides us with financial and greater personal security.

Making sure you get a decent job, with a ‘good employer’ is critical to ensuring on-the-job satisfaction, high levels of productivity and an enjoyable employment experience. There are simple steps you can follow that make this more likely.

They are:
1. Know your rights
2. Learn about the organisation
3. Prepare your interview questions
4. Know where to get help.

Know your rights

As an employee you have legal rights and responsibilities. You should be familiar with them! Here’s a quick summary of the important information when you are looking for a job.

You have to deal in ‘Good Faith’

Each party must deal with the other in good faith which at the most basic level means telling the truth, with each party being able to have trust and confidence in the other. Good faith is not about always saying ‘yes’ and it does not mean the two sides have to agree, but both parties should get a fair hearing.

You have the opportunity to seek advice

Prior to employment, employees should get a copy of the proposed agreement and should be allowed a fair and reasonable time to take the agreement away, study it and to seek advice. Your prospective employer should also allow you the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the agreement – although the employer does not have to change the offer, the employer has to listen as part of good faith. From 1 April 2011 all employers will be able to employ new employees on a trial period of up to 90 calendar days. Advice is available from the Department of Labour.

You have the opportunity to seek advice

All new employees must have a written employment agreement. This includes all casual staff. All agreements are required to contain:
• The name of the employer and employee
• A description of the work to be performed
• An indication of where the work is to be performed
• An indication of the hours of work
• Details of any intended 90 day trial period
• Wages or salary to be paid
• A plain-language explanation of how employment problems will be resolved.

If a prospective employer refuses to provide this, it is a good sign that it is the wrong job for you!

90 day trial period

From 1 April 2011 all employers will be able to employ new employees on a trial period of up to 90 calendar days. There are a couple of important things to note about trial provisions:

• A trial provision is different to a probationary arrangement. A worker that is on probation may have their performance monitored by their employer – but the employer must follow a performance management process if it wishes to dismiss the employee (i.e. the worker must be told about any concerns with their performance, and must be given an opportunity to improve).
• Agreeing to a trial provision doesn’t necessarily mean that your employment will be terminated. A Department of Labour survey in 2010 found that 74% of all employees kept their employment beyond their trial period.
In order to rely upon a trial provision an employer is required to comply with the following requirements: • The trial provision must be in writing, and must be part of the employment agreement.
• The agreement must be entered into before the employee starts work. Practically, this means that the agreement (with the trial provision) must be signed before the employee actually starts work.
• The trial provision must inform the employee that they could be dismissed within a certain time period (up to 90 days) and that time period must start on the person’s first day of work.
• The trial provision must inform for the employee that they will not be able to bring a personal grievance against the employer if their employment is terminated on the basis of the trial provision.
• A trial provision may only be applied to a new employee. An existing worker may not be asked to agree to a trial provision.

If you are offered a job, you should carefully read your employment agreement before signing it – and before starting work. If you have concerns about agreeing to a trial provision, raise them with your new employer before signing and returning your agreement.

You cannot require your employer to remove a trial provision, but you could do one of the following things:
• You could ask your employer about the reason for including a trial provision – and whether it is needed in your particular case.
• You could suggest, as an alternative, a probationary arrangement. If the employer is concerned to see how you perform in your new job you could suggest that you have regular meetings to discuss your progress – and agree to be performance-managed if required.

In general, the Employment Court has commented that because a trial provision is inherently disadvantageous to an employee’s rights, an employer seeking to rely on one must adhere strictly to the requirements of the Act.

Minimum wage

Employees should get at least the minimum wage if they are 16 years of age and over, whether they are a full-time, part-time or casual employee, a home worker, or paid wholly or partly by commission. The minimum wage doesn’t apply to people who have an exemption. Employers and employees may agree to terms that are more than the legislative minimum, but may not agree to terms that are less. The current minimum wage is $13.00 per hour.

Negotiating pay

The key to negotiating your salary is gathering as much information as possible before negotiation begins. Ideally an employer should be transparent with salary information so that job seekers can make informed salary choices at the start. This is likely to lead to greater equality of pay with other comparable roles in the organisation.

Employment legislation

The principal piece of legislation governing industrial relations in New Zealand is the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA). This aims to build productive employment relationships founded on the principle of ‘good faith’, address the inequality of power in employment relationships, support collective bargaining, ensure individual choice in employment, and promote mediation. The ERA also contains protections against unjustifiable dismissal or disadvantage.

The Human Rights Act 1993 protects people in New Zealand from discrimination in a number of areas of life, including employment. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than another person in the same or similar circumstances. The Human Rights Act lists 13 areas and grounds where discrimination is unlawful .

Learn about the organisation

Deciding whether the organisation you want to work for is a ‘good employer’ or not may be critical to whether you choose to work there. There are several things employees should consider when making this determination.
• Is there an employment agreement and position description that clearly explains the position as you understand it?
• Have you spoken with previous or current employees who give you confidence in the employer’s commitment to his/her people?
• Is there any information in Annual Reports or external material that indicates the employer is a ‘good employer’?
• Does the organisation have an EEO policy? Can you view the policy?
• Does the organisation have a sexual harassment policy? Can you view the policy?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, then this organisation may fit with your wants and needs.

Prepare your interview questions

You should prepare for all job interviews and even practice with a family member or friend. Practice promoting your skills and competencies that match the job description. An employer should only ask a jobseeker questions that have relevance to the job advertised. If questions are asked that have no relevance to the job (whether in an interview or on a job application form) then employers may be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1993.

To help both job seekers and employers know their rights and responsibilities in the hiring process the Human Rights Commission has published “Getting a job: an A to Z of pre-employment guidelines”. These concise, plain-language guidelines tackle questions commonly asked of the Commission. They can be viewed at

All the curly issues are covered, from body piercings and credit checks, to sexual harassment and drug testing.

Where to get help

The Department of Labour’s employment relations service provides information and investigates problems to do with employment and workplace health and safety. The website has comprehensive information about a number of issues, including:
• Employment conditions
• Minimum legal requirements
• Problem resolution
• Health and safety
• Ways to work better
• Labour market information.

The Commission through its NEON website also provides comprehensive advice and materials about employment. The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has a ‘Know your rights’ section on their website to assist job seekers.

Plain English versions of Work and your rights in New Zealand and an Individual Employment Agreement are available from


Job seekers should ensure they:
 Know their employment rights
 Learn as much as they can about the organisation and its reputation as a ‘good employer’
 Ask if the organisation has an EEO policy and ask to see it
 Scrutinise other human resources policies, including those for sexual harassment
 Speak to current or former employees about the organisation’s culture
 Know where to get more information.