All employees, whether full-time, part-time, permanent, fixed or casual, are entitled to a copy of their employment agreement in writing. The employment agreement must have terms and conditions which are at least as good as the minimum rights in the law. As a student, some of us tend to ignore or forget about our employment rights so allow us to inform you of some important ones:

Declaring Convictions

If asked, you must declare your criminal conviction to your employer, unless it is covered by the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004. This Act allows you to not have to disclose your convictions if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • No convictions within the last seven years.
  • Never been sentenced to a custodial sentence e.g. imprisonment, corrective training, borstal.
  • Never been ordered by a court following a criminal case to be detained in a hospital due to your mental condition, instead of being sentenced.
  • Not been convicted of a “specified offence” (e.g. sexual offending against children and young people or the mentally impaired).
  • Paid in full any fine, reparation, or costs ordered by the court in a criminal case.
  • Never been indefinitely disqualified from driving.

However, the Clean Slate Act only applies within NZ so you may need to fully disclose any conviction if applying for a job overseas.

Trial Period

Yes, they can test you out… but let’s look at what this means in practice.

What is a trial period and is this legal?
Your employment contract may include the provision for a trial period of up to 90 days. Trial periods are voluntary and must be agreed in writing and negotiated in good faith as part of the employment agreement. During this trial period, the employer may lawfully terminate an employment agreement without reason. They still have to pay you for this time.

Annual Leave

When you don’t have a job, you want one. When you have a job, you want time off. So:

How much annual leave am I entitled to?
As an employee, after working for 12 months at the same job, you are entitled to four weeks (20 working days) paid annual holiday if you are employed full-time. For part-time, casual, or fixed-term agreements, you will accrue 4/52 of an hour in annual leave for every hour you work. If you have worked for less than 12 months, annual leave will still build up, but unless your employer agrees to allow you to take annual leave in advance, you will not be entitled to it until after you have worked for 12 months.

When can I take my annual leave?
You can take your annual leave within 12 months of being entitled to leave. If requested and reasonable, your employer must allow you to have at least two weeks of these holidays in a continuous period. When you take your annual leave is a matter to be agreed between yourself and the employer. However, your employer must not unreasonably decline your request to take annual leave at a particular time.

What happens to my annual leave during the shutdown period?
Unless agreed otherwise with your employer, if your place of work shuts for a period of time, you will be required to take annual leave during this time.

Can I have my annual leave paid to me instead of taking it?
You are entitled to ask your employer to pay you up to one week of your entitlement to annual holidays per year. You must make this request in writing and it may be declined by your employer without reason.

What happens to my annual leave if I resign from my job?
Unlike sick leave, annual leave owed to you must be paid out when you resign from your job after giving the required amount of notice.

Public Holidays

In New Zealand, there are 11 paid public holidays in a year. These are:

  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • New Year’s Day
  • 2nd January
  • Waitangi Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • ANZAC Day
  • Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June)
  • Labour Day (fourth Monday in October)
  • The local anniversary day (Auckland’s Anniversary date usually falls on the Monday closest to 29 January)

Do I have to work on a public holiday?
Maybe – an employee can be required to work on a public holiday if it falls on a day that the employee would ordinarily have worked and it is required in your employment agreement.

Will I be compensated for working on a public holiday?
Yes! If you are required to work on a public holiday then you will be entitled to an alternative paid day off in lieu, and the payment of at least time and a half for the time actually worked.


Do you have outstanding questions about employment law? 
You can contact our Student Advocates by emailing them on studentadvocate@unitec.ac.nz  or visiting them at Building 111 Room 1025 at Unitec Mt Albert campus.
This article covers common problems. It will not answer every question and should not be used as a substitute for legislation or legal advice.