Starting work? You need to know this stuff

Getting your first job is exciting

It’s great to get onto that first stepping stone, to start to earn money of your own with the chance to start showing what you can do. Unless you have decided to work for yourself, a first job is the start of a whole new kind of relationship with you now an employee with an employer or a boss. It’s a big step, so here are a few things you should maybe think about before accepting that first (or any) job.

Your first job is the first step on your career trek. It may not be the dream role you may have been hoping for, but it might take you there. As your knowledge, skills and interests grow, it’s likely that your direction will change too. Be open to what you like and where you want to go.

The huge majority of employers around New Zealand are fair, open and honest with their employees, and they will be with you. You are actually an asset for the business, and so smart employers will have good safety and health practices in place as well as offering good conditions and the chance to progress with them.

What to look for in a good job:

  • Employers that make you feel that your contribution is valued will always be better to work for. 
  • A good boss and a decent job should offer you regular hours.  This shows that they value their employees need for income, work and home balance and job security.
  • Does your job include training or the chance to move into some in the future? Training can really increase your options for the future, and it shows the employer values you.
  • Is the paperwork in order? You should be given a written employment agreement setting out the work you are to do, when you should be doing it and how much you are to be paid. Employers can put on these agreements any specific requirements than may relate to you being able to perform the job.
  • A job agreement should outline how any potential issues or problems between you and the employer can be resolved. It’s a good idea to get an older person you trust to go through any employment agreement with you.

You have rights at work

As an employee, even on your first job, you have rights at work. In New Zealand we have basic employment rights including a minimum wage, sick leave, holiday pay, tea and lunch breaks, and for a safe place to work.

In some workplaces, the arrangements between workers and employers are sorted collectively by what is called a union.  A union supports workers by speaking for them and negotiating with the employer for workers’ conditions and rights. Around 350,000 New Zealand workers belong to the more than 130 registered unions here. An employer cannot stop you joining a union if there is one at your new workplace.

Find out more about unions and your rights here

The least you can get paid is…..

The minimum wage is $17.70 per hour before tax unless:

  • You’re under 16 (in which case there is no minimum wage);
  • You’re 16 to 17. If so you may be paid the starting-out wage of $14.16 per hour (80% of the minimum wage) for the first six months of your employment before going up to the adult minimum of $17.70. This also applies if you’re 18 or 19 and have been on a benefit for 6+ months or if you are under 20 and are appointed to a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year;

90-day trial period

Some employers use a 90-day trial period when they hire new workers. If you get employed on a trial period this is your chance to show the boss what you are capable of. The better you perform, the more likely that you will be retained well after the trial period.

Public holidays usually mean a day off

Once you are working, you will be interested in public holidays, days when businesses and most workplaces are generally closed. If you are required to work on a public holiday, you are entitled to be paid at a higher rate and to get another day off, however it pays to check with your boss what working on a public holiday might mean.

Currently, there are 11 public holidays in New Zealand:

  • Christmas Day and Boxing Day
  • New Year’s Day and the 2nd of January
  • Waitangi Day (6 February)
  • Good Friday and Easter Monday
  • Anzac Day (25 April)
  • Queen’s Birthday (1st Monday in June)
  • Labour Day (4th Monday in October)
  • the Anniversary day of whichever province you work in, eg Wellington Anniversary Day.


Find out more about in-work training