Addressing zero-hour contracts

  • Michael Woodhouse
Workplace Relations and Safety

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of measures to prevent unfair employment practices such as ‘zero-hour contracts’.

“New Zealand has a well-functioning labour market in general and our employment relations framework aims to strike the right balance between flexibility and certainty,” says Mr Woodhouse.

“However there are some practices that I believe are unnecessary and unacceptable for modern working arrangements.

“For example, zero-hour contracts refers to employment arrangements, including permanent, where the employer does not guarantee any hours of work, yet requires employees to be available.  This is unfair and makes it difficult for employees to plan their financial and personal lives.”

The proposed changes will prohibit unfair practices including:

  • employers not committing any hours of work, but expecting employees to be available when required
  • employers cancelling a shift without providing reasonable notice or compensation to the employee
  • employers putting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment of employees
  • employers making unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages.

The changes will also mean that where the employer and employee agree to a set amount of hours, they will be required to state these up front in the employment agreement.

This will retain flexibility where it’s desired by both parties, but also increase certainty by ensuring that employers and employees are aware at the beginning of the working relationship of the mutual commitment that they have or have not made.

“The Government is committed to ensuring the employment law is fair and supports the flexible, modern workforce that is critical for the productivity of our economy.”

These changes will be reflected in an Employment Standards Bill to be introduced to Parliament later this year.