Citizens Advice Bureau releases report that shows many employers are breaking the law
Employers are breaking the law by denying workers their entitlement to a written employment agreement. Citizens Advice
Bureau has produced a report based on the situations of 473 clients who contacted the CAB in the six months from 1
December 2016 to 31 May 2017 who did not have written employment agreements and who were dealing with a range of other
breaches of their employment rights.
“When there is no written employment agreement, employees are vulnerable to being treated badly by their employer”, said
Jayne McKendry, Social Policy Advisor at Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand. Ms McKendry and her colleagues have looked
closely at the 473 enquiries and they are appalled at the very clear breaches of law for these people.
“We have seen situations of employees not being paid wages owed to them, having their hours of work changed without
discussion, and even being fired on the spot for taking a day’s sick leave” states Ms McKendry. “These are clear abuses
of employees’ rights, rights which are very clearly stated in the law”, McKendry noted.
The CAB acknowledges that having a written employment agreement doesn’t guarantee that minimum standards of employment
will be upheld, but they assert that a written agreement is a fundamental starting point for any employment
relationship. They are calling on all employers, regardless of the size of their business, to make sure they understand
their obligations to their staff.
“If you don’t know what’s legally required of you as an employer, it’s time you found out. There is plenty of
information and support available to help you”, asserts McKendry.
CABs have seen many situations where things have gone awry at the end of the employment relationship, something that
could have been prevented if there was a written employment agreement giving both parties a clear understanding about
giving notice and about treating each other fairly and in good faith. “Having a written employment agreement makes life
easier for both employers and employees” McKendry noted.
“CABs have received enquiries from clients who got fired on the spot for having a day off sick, or who’ve been told to
either work longer hours or leave, or even for asking for an employment agreement. This is clearly unfair, and
“We’ve also talked to people who’ve just walked off the job with no, or very little, notice. In this situation, not
having a written employment agreement doesn’t help the employer either”, Ms McKendry noted.
The Labour Inspectorate has statutory powers to enforce compliance with employment laws but given how widespread
non-compliance is, they are seriously under-resourced to be able to respond to every breach. There is also currently
no-where for employees to go to safely report a breach of their rights and know that action will be taken in a way that
will not back-fire on them.
The CAB believes that a more integrated cross-government approach is needed to address these issues, both in terms of
educating employers and ensuring compliance with minimum employment standards.
The CAB hopes their report will prompt employers to get things in order and make sure every worker has a written
employment agreement. “We also hope it will prompt government agencies to think of other ways to educate and upskill
employers, to ensure there are consequences for those who knowingly disregard the law, and to make it easier for
employees to report breaches of their rights without fear of losing their job if they do. We will certainly be
advocating for this every chance we get,” Jayne concluded.
Citizens Advice Bureau is an independent community organisation offering free, confidential and independent information,
advice and assistance from 83 locations stretching from Northland to Invercargill. Last year volunteers received over
500,000 enquiries on issues ranging from health and family, immigration, housing and employment to consumer rights.