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  • Brie Keatley

Five things you should look out for when you start a new job

Expertly summarised by Brie Keatley (she/they), Erica Schouten (she/her)


In partnership with the VUWSA Advocacy Team


Gone are the days where your living costs could comfortably cover all your weekly expenses. And unless you can rely on the bank of your parents… it’s up to you to fill the gaps. So, you trek through Trade Me, scroll Student Job Search and cruise up and down Cuba Street. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few choice looking offers (and maybe a few dodgy ones) and we here at VUWSA Advocacy are here to make sure you accept the good ones. So, here are five things you should be aware of when you start a new job.



Contract type: Okay you’ve verbally accepted your job! Great! Now you need  to sign your contract. There are various forms of being considered officially employed, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.Probably the most common contract type for students is part-time. 


There are two types of part-time contracts though! Casual, and permanent. If you are under casual part-time employment, your hours per week are not guaranteed which can be quite annoying. If you are under permanent part-time employment you usually have a set amount of hours you will work a week (between 10 – 20 usually). This is more commonly found in hospo settings. Say you work at a bar and your usual shifts are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. This would mean you need to give notice if you for some reason are unable to work these usual hours.


It's important not to mix up contracted work with being a contractor. Contracted work refers to the topic of this article, while being a contractor means being self-employed and responsible for paying your own taxes, ACC fees, and other employment-related expenses. Examples of independent contract jobs include sex work, theater performance, trade work, musical gigs and any work you do for uber/delivery services.


What breaks you are entitled to:  Working on a contract means you are entitled to breaks. Anyone who works in hospo is probably laughing until they cry when they read that. The length and how many you get depends on how many hours you are working. The rules around paid breaks and (unpaid) meal breaks are complicated so you should check out employment.govt.nz for reliable information on this. If you find you’re consistently not being given sufficient breaks,ask your manager. We acknowledge that this can be so difficult to do due to power imbalances. If this is the case, come and have a chat with us at VUWSA Advocacy and we’ll see how we can help.


Dodgy superiors: Have you ever had a boss text you outside of work hours? Ask inappropriate questions about your personal life? Not let you clock in for hours you’ve clearly worked? It sounds like you might have what we in the bizz call a ‘dodgy superior’. Some people go on power trips when they are given even the slightest bit of seniority. If you feel like you may be under the management of a ‘dodgy superior’ it can be almost overwhelmingly difficult to speak out about it. Our best advice in this situation is to either speak to one of your co-workers you trust or the dodgy superior’s manager. If neither of these options are available, it may also be a good idea to speak to someone within your union. You can find out what union to join at union.org.nz.


Visa work hours: International students! We haven't forgotten about you. If you are interested, you can work up to 20 hours per week while on a study visa in employed positions. Unfortunately, contractor work is not allowed under this visa. However, most job opportunities for students in Wellington are not contractor-based, so you're in luck. Just be aware that if you are not on a formal contract and being paid irregularly, you may still be classified as a contractor by your employer.



After reading this you should feel ready to begin work and confident that you will not be taken advantage of by the many tricky employment laws in Aotearoa, but if you need more advice:


Other places to get advice:

Wellington Community Law: Free law advice with specific drop in sessions around employment on Wednesday’s between 5:30 – 7:00 https://www.wclc.org.nz/

Citizen’s Advice Bureau: Free advice from trained members of the public. https://www.cab.org.nz/location/cab-central-wellington

Employment New Zealand: The official website for all employment law. You can search on their website https://www.employment.govt.nz/ or call them for free on 0800 20 90 20

VUWSA Advocacy: We are able to provide free and confidential advice about your employment situation advocate@vuwsa.org.nz 


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