New Zealand: A guide to Employment Rights for Civil Engineers

New Zealand

employment rights, migrant engineers, new zealand, skilled migrants,


Civil Engineers working in New Zealand must be aware of the country’s employment standards for fair treatment, safety, and proper compensation. 

Many Civil Engineering and Construction professionals who come to New Zealand for work are unfamiliar with employment rights and regulations.

To work with a New Zealand employer, you must acquire and stay within the conditions of your visa. This requirement ensures your authorisation to work in the country, providing a legal foundation for your employment. 

This guide provides an overview of the minimum employment rights, responsibilities and other terms and conditions that apply by law to employers and employees in New Zealand.

Employment Agreements

All employees must have a formally signed, written employment agreement with their employer. Even if you have verbally accepted a job offer, completing and signing a written agreement before commencing work is essential.

These agreements define the working relationship between an employer and an employee, setting the framework for roles, responsibilities, and other terms and conditions.  

Individual Employment Agreements 

Individual employment agreements are negotiated by an employer and an employee. Both parties should discuss the terms and conditions in the agreement, such as responsibilities, wages and working hours. Remember that you can also negotiate terms and conditions before signing the agreement.

Collective Employment Agreements 

Many Civil Engineering and Construction companies offer a collective employment agreement negotiated by a union. A union is an organisation that supports Engineers in the workplace by speaking on their behalf to employers regarding salary, safety protocols and industry-specific terms and conditions.

It is up to you to join a union, and employers are not allowed to influence your decisions.

30-day rule for new working employees

Employees must follow the collective agreement terms for the first 30 days if this agreement is in place. During this time, an employer and employee can agree on more favourable terms than those specified in the collective agreement.

The employer can negotiate different terms in the employment agreement if an employee hasn’t become a union member after the period.

You should carefully read the agreement before signing. If you are uncertain about an aspect of the agreement, discuss it with your employer. It also means that misunderstandings are less likely to happen, and both the employer and employee can refer to the employment agreement to resolve any arising issues.

New Zealand | Types of Employment Agreements

Trial period

The current employment regulations allow engineering companies with 19 or fewer employees to incorporate trial periods in their employment agreements. However, a valid trial period must be agreed upon and written in the employment agreement before the employee begins work, or the trial period is invalid.

Starting from 29 October 2023, accredited employers will no longer have the authorisation to enforce a 90-day trial period within employment contracts for Accredited Employers Working Visa (AEWV) holders. This is regardless of whether applications were filed before or after 29 October 2023.

The New Zealand Government is extending the 90-day trial period to all employers. This will give businesses the confidence to hire new people and increase workplace flexibility. It will also provide greater opportunities for employees.

Job checks and AEWVs approved before the date will remain unaffected by the new regulation and can continue as planned.

Click here to see more information about trial periods. 

Last update: 15 December 2023

When you agree to work at an engineering company, you also agree to give them the time, effort, and skills. You must be at work during the days and hours outlined in your employment agreement contract.

It is important that you get to work on time, behave reasonably, always be honest, and use your knowledge and skills to do your work. The only exception is if you have a legal reason, such as being sick or agreeing to take time off with your employer.

Minimum employee rights and obligations 

There are minimum rights and responsibilities set out by New Zealand law to protect Civil Engineers and Construction professionals at work. Even if they are not stated in your agreement contract, or if your agreement tries to make you get less than the minimum, these laws will ensure that your employer acts in good faith and that you are safe at work and not unlawfully discriminated against.

You have the right to:

  • Obtain a written employment agreement
  • Seek guidance from a trusted individual before you sign the contract
  • Ask your employer for details of your working hours, leave, and holiday benefits
  • Have two 10mins paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30mins meal break over an 8-hour work period
  • Be treated fairly and have a proper procedure in case of termination or redundancy
  • Be protected from unlawful discrimination based on your age, ethnicity, gender, disability, or religious affiliation
  • Work in a safe environment with training, supervision and equipment

Keep in mind that your employer cannot:

  • Deduct money from your salary without consent, except for legal deductions such as income tax
  • Keep your passport  
  • Charge you money for giving you a job

Click here for a full guide on employment rights in New Zealand.

Remember that you have the same rights as New Zealand workers if you are a migrant engineer. If you think your employer is exploiting you, you can report this to Employment New Zealand.

Click here to see more information regarding migrant exploitation. 

Settling in New Zealand

If you are under an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), your employer must provide you with a guide document to help you settle in New Zealand.

The guide that will help you settle in must include advice on:

  • Accommodation
  • Transport
  • Cost of living
  • Healthcare services
  • Citizens Advice Bureau Services
  • Community groups
  • Taxes and getting an IRD number
  • Industry training and qualifications
  • Job or industry hazards
  • General information for employees on an AEWV
  • Other relevant information to help you settle in

Your employer must email you the guide or physically hand you a printed copy within the first month of employment.

Explore our comprehensive guide that gives you practical advice and tips that will make your move to NZ easier here.

Health and Safety

Both you and your employer are responsible for ensuring a safe and secure work environment. Engineers are constantly exposed to high-risk work environments, so your employer must provide protective personal equipment (PPE) if required.

Employers must identify and mitigate risks, provide proper training, and enforce strict safety measures. Workers must be aware of their surroundings and have the right to refuse to carry out work and report safety concerns when on-site.

Migrant engineers coming to New Zealand must understand the employment agreement’s health and safety requirements to ensure an accident-free work environment.

New Zealand | Rights and Obligations

Leave/Holidays/Parental Leave 

All employees are entitled to at least four weeks of paid annual leave and up to eleven public holidays. You will also be entitled to ten sick days and four days of bereavement leave after six months of employment under the same engineering firm.

Remember that annual holidays, sick leave, and public holidays are all calculated differently. Your employer must make sure that all different leave types are calculated correctly.  

Click here for more information on minimum leave and holiday entitlements.

Wages and Tax 


The minimum wage is set by the New Zealand Government and reviewed annually. Migrant Engineers are entitled to have the same minimum wage rights as New Zealand workers.

Type of minimum wagePer hour8-hour day40-hour week80-hour fortnight
Adult22.70 NZD181.60 NZD908 NZD1,816 NZD

If you are a full-time employee, divide the pay by the number of hours you work in a pay period to ensure you earn the minimum wage.

Click here to see more information regarding wages.


The income tax rates are generally based on your total income for the tax year. 

All taxes are paid and collected by the New Zealand Government, known as the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). All Engineers who work and earn income in New Zealand will need an IRD number.

You will be taxed at the highest possible rate if you do not register for an IRD number. So, apply for one as soon as you arrive in New Zealand, as this will serve as your unique tax identifier.

Tax System in New Zealand 

Ending your employment

You must notify your employer if you decide to leave your current employer. You must continue to work for the notice period specified in your employment contract unless both parties agree otherwise.  

If your employee decides to end your employment through dismissal, restriction, or redundancy, your employer needs to follow a formal process. Failure to follow the procedure may give you eligibility for compensation.

Click here to read more about ending your employment.

Overall, it is vital skilled migrants understand the employment rights framework before stepping into the Civil Engineering and Construction industry in New Zealand. New Zealand offers a promising landscape for skilled migrants, backed by robust employment rights that ensure fairness and safety in the infrastructure industry.

If you want to bring your engineering and construction skills to New Zealand, now is the right time! The persistent skill shortages in New Zealand have prompted employers to actively seek international talent.

Find all the information you need to start your journey in New Zealand in the comprehensive guide below. 

Guide to New Zealand

Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended for general guidance only and should not be considered as legal advice. For individual assessments and legal inquiries, it is advisable to consult with a qualified lawyer or legal professional. The content offered is for informational purposes, and specific legal matters may require personalized attention from a legal expert to address your unique circumstances.

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