Bullying, harassment & discrimination at work.

What are my rights if my boss is bullying me?

You have the right to work in a safe workplace. Bullying can be a tricky one to define sometimes, but if the behaviour you are experiencing is repeated and harmful then it probably is bullying. All workers are covered by health and safety laws, and this protects us from physical and psychological harm. If you’re being bullied by your boss, then the company is failing to meet its obligations to keep workers safe. You should first address this with your boss and explain how their actions are harming you. If the boss doesn’t change their behaviour or the company doesn’t take action, then you can raise a personal grievance for unjustified disadvantage.

What do I do if my boss is sexually harassing me?

Seek support immediately. Tell someone you trust what is going on and find some emotional support. Then write everything down – what has been happening, when it happened, who was involved. Begin recording the details of any incident – it will be useful later and helps to frame your thoughts. Then write to the boss formally outlining your concerns and request a meeting to address them. Make sure you take an effective support person into the meeting with you. The boss’ behaviour needs to stop, and if they don’t fix it after this meeting then you should seek advice about raising a personal grievance for sexual harassment. It’s definitely a good idea to seek proper employment advice during this whole process.

More information on how to handle bullying, harassment & discrimination at work »

Casual Employees

Am I entitled to holiday pay as a casual worker?

As a casual employee you are not entitled to a paid annual holiday. Instead you will be paid out your annual leave as you work. This is called casual loading, where annual leave is paid out to casual workers at a rate of 8 percent of their hours worked each pay period. This means instead of building annual leave up like permanent employees you should receive this additional 8 percent as you go.

Should casual workers have an employment agreement?

Absolutely. Casual workers still have rights, and every employee in New Zealand is entitled to an employment agreement. Employers must provide you with a contract, give you a few days to read it, and a chance to negotiate, before you start the job. If they haven’t done this you are well within your rights to ask for one at any stage of your employment – if they don’t then give you one they are breaking the law.

Can casual workers refuse work?

Yes. Casual work is a two-way street – employers don’t have to offer you any hours and you don’t have to accept any shifts. This type of employment relationship is intended to be mutually flexible. It’s a bad look if you turn down a shift you have already accepted or are rostered on for though, and this could be interpreted as breaching your obligations of good faith. But if the boss calls you and you are not available, or you message then am tell them you can’t work certain dates, then they must accept that. In practice though, casual workers don’t have a lot of power and bad employers might punish you for not accepting a shift by reducing your hours and opportunities. This is unlawful but it happens.

How many hours do casual workers work?

Casual workers are not entitled to specified hours. This means their hours can vary wildly. Employers have no obligation to offer any shifts, and casuals do not have to accept any shifts when offered. The relationship is based on an ‘as needed, as available’ basis. Basically, you’re a fill-in. That said, if your employer is expecting you to work regular, consistent hours (e.g. 16 hours every week) over a period of time (say 10 weeks or more) then you should not be a causal and should have a permanent employment agreement. Lots of employers abuse casual working relationships.

Can an employer still effectively use zero-hour contract type tactics to keep me working shifts under the threat of being fired?

Legally they can’t – but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Threatening to fire you if you don’t accept a shift sounds like a casual employment situation where you’re working shifts you don’t want to because you employer has made it clear where the door is if you don’t. This is unlawful and bosses can’t punish casuals who refuse to work a shift offered to them.

Zero-hour contracts we’re effectively outlawed a few years ago. If an employer wants you working regular, consistent shifts they must specify a minimum number of guaranteed hours in your contract. On top of this, they may require you to be available to work additional hours and if so, they must have a genuine reason and include an availability clause. This clause includes ‘reasonable’ compensation for being on standby.

Can casual workers be fired without warning?

In a sense, yes. Employers can simply stop offering you shifts, since they are not obligated to provide casual workers with any hours. Each shift you agree to do is treated as a new period of employment, so effectively your employment ends at the end of each shift. If there is a regular pattern to your work though, your employer has misclassified you as a casual when you should be a permanent staff member. In this case, if they fired you without warning or stopped offering you shifts then you have been unfairly dismissed. They could be exploiting you and you should seek advice.

More information on casual employees »

Pay and Wages

What can I do if my boss won’t pay me?

Your boss cannot withhold your wages under any circumstances – unless you give your consent. You should remind them of this fact. They must pay you at the agreed time/date that is stipulated in your contract. If they don’t do this, they are breaching the terms of the agreement and violating the Wages Protection Act. Communicate your expectations to them professionally and if they continue to refuse, you can raise a personal grievance – seek advice first.

Redundancies

What are my rights when being made redundant?

First the employer must propose the redundancy and they must be able to justify it to you – they cannot simply make a decision and let you know retrospectively. The must share with you the reason and all the relevant information (financial or otherwise) that has led to this proposal. Then they must consult with you and hear your response. Only then, once they have consulted with all affected staff and been receptive to their views and suggestions, can they make the decision. If they haven’t followed this process, then you have been unjustifiably dismissed and should raise a personal grievance.

General information on redundancies »

Employment NZ’s info around terminating employment during COVID-19 response and recovery »

COVID-19 Wage Subsidy

Are casual workers entitled to the wage subsidy?

It is up to employers where they will seek the wage subsidy to support their casual workers. Unfortunately, you don’t have an automatic right to the subsidy, unless your employer applies on your behalf. This is because as a casual, your boss has no obligation to offer you any hours. You should ask them to though, especially if you have regular, consistent hours (which may mean you are actually a permanent employee).

Employment NZ’s info around the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy »

General FAQ

What are my expectations of privacy in a job, is an employer allowed to talk to me about what is on my snap chat or Facebook?

Privacy on social media? Does that exist? Most of the time social media is a public domain, and anything an employer can access is lawfully fair game. You can obviously bump up the security settings on your profiles and that’s probably a good idea. The main protection you have is against discrimination – you don’t have to answer any questions or discuss anything with your employer that might lead them to discriminate against you. If they feel that your social media content has implications for their company however, then they are within their rights to address it with you, e.g. if you post something about how lame your manager is.

What are some tips to help differentiate myself from other candidates in a competitive environment?

Do your research. Speak to the company’s values in your job application and display how your attributes and skills align with their vision – no matter how big or small they are. Soft skills are extremely fashionable right now. Employers place significantly higher priority on how well you communicate, your team-working capabilities, and your work ethic, than on your technical expertise or education – so make sure to emphasize these. Lastly, if there is room to apply a personal touch then go for it. Always follow the application instructions, but if you’re able to submit your CV in person it may be an edge over other candidates.

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Get in touch with the Young Workers Resource Centre if you or someone you know is experiencing issues/mistreatment in the workplace.