Every migrant sooner or later has to deal with employment and employment rights. For those wanting to apply for a work visa it is essential that they have a job offer. For others, for instance people applying for a visa via the Family Stream or people applying for a resident visa, it is not always required to have a job offer at the time you apply for a visa. Most of them will eventually want to or have to work when they are in New Zealand.

Migrants have to be careful and know what their rights are as employees as some employers try to take advantage of migrant workers. Every now and then an article with this subject pops up in the papers or on the news. Migrants often don’t dare to speak up as the employer might fire them and then they’ll lose their visa and have to go home.

Job offer

If you need a job offer to get a visa you are fortunate. An employer has to offer you a job and an employment agreement that meet or exceed the minimum New Zealand employment rights.
Employers must confirm and might be asked to provide proof they have complied with employment and immigration law in the past and continue to do so in the future. Immigration will check with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is the employer has a history there.

Your job offer has to be

  • full time (30 hrs or more)
  • genuine
  • sustainable (for the period the job is offered in case of a work visa)
  • rate of pay not less than the market rate for that occupation in New Zealand


Your rights

Everyone who works in New Zealand has minimum rights. It doesn’t matter if you are on a temporary work visa, a resident visa or a citizen. It is good to know what these are.

  • Every employee must have a written employment agreement.
  • Employees aged 16 years and over must be paid at least the adult minimum wage rate (NZD14.25 per hour, current 11 March 2015), unless they are starting-out workers or trainees.
  • Employers can make an offer of employment that includes a trial period of up to 90 days.
  • Employees are entitled to:

– one 10-minute paid rest break when they work between two and four hours
– one 10-minute paid rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break when they work more                        than four and up to six hours
– two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break when they work more                     than six and up to eight hours.

  • At the end of each year of employment with any one employer, an employee becomes entitled to four weeks’ paid annual holidays.
  • Employees are entitled to 11 public holidays off work on pay, if they are days when the employee would normally work.
  • After six months an employee is entitled to five days sick leave on pay.
  • Employees may be eligible for paid and unpaid parental leave if they meet certain criteria. The paid leave is funded by Government, not employers.
  • Employers can’t discriminate in hiring or firing, paying, training or promoting an employee because of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital or family status, employment status, age, religious belief or political opinion, disability, or participation in certain union activities.
  • Employers must provide a safe workplace, with proper training, supervision and equipment.
  • Employers must consult with employees about proposed decisions likely to have an adverse effect on the continuation of an employee’s employment.