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Employees' rights in New Zealand - Discrimination

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Human Rights Act 1993
The Human Rights Act 1993 expressly prohibits discrimination on certain stated grounds including sex, race, family status, political opinion and the like. It applies to almost all aspects of employment including job advertisement, application forms, interviews and job offers. It also applies to unpaid workers and independent contractors. The ERA expressly applies the HRA to employment matters.

Workplace discrimination is dealt with under the Human Rights Act 1993. Discrimination in employment can involve:

Refusal or failure to offer and employee the same terms of employment, conditions of work, fringe benefits or opportunities as other employees with the same or similar qualifications, experience or skills working in the same or similar circumstances;
Dismissal or detriment by the employer in circumstances in which other employees doing the same kind of work are not, or would not be, treated in such a way; and
Retirement or being made to retire or resign by the employer

While the Act in New Zealand covers women, trans persons and discrimination based on cultural grounds a number of barriers still exist in practice in relation to persons who fall within these socio-economic groups. The findings from The Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People conduction by the Human Rights Commission in 2008 found that the majority of submissions made describing some form of discrimination focused on the area of employment. Four out of five submissions described examples of discrimination that ranged from harassment at work to vicious assault and sexual abuse. In 2010 the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research at Victoria University published a meta-analysis of all research relating to the experience of discrimination by Asian New Zealanders. The results found that Asian people experienced significant discrimination both working at and applying for jobs, and had higher rates of unemployment and under-employment than other ethnic groups.

If an employee has been unlawfully discriminated against during the course of employment they may pursue a person grievance under the ER Act through the MBIE or make a complaint under the Human Rights Act; however they cannot pursue both. If the discrimination occurs before employment, an individual can only pursue a complaint under the Human Rights Act.

It remains difficult to gauge the levels of workplace discrimination in New Zealand nationally due to inadequacies in data recording and reporting.


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