How to know your rights in applying or being interviewed for a job

Discrimination in the advertising of job positions

Employers advertising job positions must comply with the anti-discrimination laws contained in the HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1993. These restrict an employer from discriminating on the grounds of:

  • sex
  • disability
  • marital status
  • age
  • religious belief
  • political opinion
  • ethical belief
  • employment status
  • colour
  • family status
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • ethnic or national origins

In addition to those grounds, it is illegal to impose height or weight restrictions without good reason.

The anti-discrimination rules in the Act apply also to employment agencies, as well as employers.

Discrimination at the interview stage

If you get to the interview stage, again the grounds of discrimination prohibited under the HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1993 mean that there are certain private issues about which you need not answer questions. These include:

  • your place of birth
  • your race or national origin
  • the origin of your surname
  • your marital status or any plans to marry
  • how many children you have and what childcare arrangements are required for them
  • your religious beliefs and the holidays that you observe
  • with whom you live
  • which political party you support

In an interview an employer does have the right to ask about any arrests or convictions that you may have, and is legally entitled to have this information.

What can I do if I believe I have been discriminated against?

If you believe that your rights under the HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1993 have been breached at any stage of applying or being interviewed for a job, you may complain to the Human Rights Commission: see How to complain about discrimination to the Human Rights Commission.

References

If a former supervisor or employer gives you a poor reference that is untrue, you may have an action for damages against that person. You may also have an action in defamation if you believe a poor reference was given for malicious reasons.

Former employers are entitled to not give references at all or to give references in confidence. Therefore a poor reference that is given in confidence and that results in you not getting a job need not be divulged to you.

The employment contract

If you get the job, the next step is then to enter into an employment contract: see How to enter into an employment contract with an employer.

Cautionary notes
  • In advertising for a job that requires a particular sex – for example, male actors – it is legal not to employ women.
  • Jobs in private households may also specify a certain sex.


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