Further to the employer obligations of the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Human Rights Act 1993 protects New Zealanders from unlawful discrimination in a number of areas of life, including employment.
Visit the Human Rights Commission website for information about discrimination on the basis of disability in employment.
The Human Rights Act covers disabilities which people have presently, have had in the past, or which they are believed to have. It is also unlawful to discriminate against relatives or associates of people with a disability, because of that disability. This can include a spouse, carer or business partner.
Reasonable accommodation - If a person requires special services or facilities and it is not reasonable to provide these, then the provider or employer need not provide them.
Example: It may not be reasonable to expect a small business to relocate offices, or pay out large amounts creating disability access in an existing building.
Risk of Harm - If a risk of harm to a person or others is not reasonable to take, then the provider or employer need not take the risk or reduce the risk to an acceptable level. BUT the risk of harm exception does NOT apply if, without unreasonable disruption, reasonable measures could be taken to reduce the risk to a normal level.
Example: In a case taken to the Human Rights Commission, a man was transferred to another workplace because he could not wear the required safetyboots due to having diabetes. The company justified the transfer on the grounds that safety boots were necessary to fulfil requirements under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The company maintained that it had made all efforts to accommodate the complainant's disability by, for instance, allowing him to have breaks every two hours for food. The Commission's Complaints Division found that the company had fulfilled their obligation to try to accommodate him and also found that the 'risk of harm' exception applied.
Employment (includes pre-employment and advertising)
- work involving national security
- authenticity and privacy - domestic employment in a private household
- crews of ships (staff employed outside of New Zealand)
- meat and health regulations require the exclusion of people with certain diseases from some jobs. Pre-employment questions regarding these specific diseases will be lawful.
- Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 requires minimum health requirements to be in place. Where safety is an issue, relevant questions can be asked.
General qualification on employment exceptions
No employer can treat an employee differently (based on a ground), even if an exception applies, if, with some adjustment of activities, some other employee can carry out the duties.
It is unlawful for superannuation schemes to treat people differently on the basis of disability except where:
- the superannuation scheme was in existence before 1 February 1994 and the person became a member of the scheme before 1 January 1996
- different contributions from, or benefits for, members are based on reasonable data.
Employment Relations Act 2000
The Employment Relations website contains information for employers on
- employment rights
- employment agreements
- how to resolve workplace problems
- collective bargaining
- forming employment relationships
- ending employment relationships.