Employment agreements

A well-considered, written employment agreement ensures employees know what you expect from them and what their duties are, and protects both of you. If a dispute does arise then you can refer to a signed copy of the employment agreement, or details of the collective agreement, under which they were employed.

What you must do

  • The law requires you to have a written employment agreement. You and your employee should both sign the agreement so there is no dispute about what was promised or agreed on.
  • Consider the impact of existing collective agreements in your workplace, as follows:
    1. If there is a collective agreement in your workplace and the person you hire is a member of that union, then the new employee must be offered the conditions in the collective agreement.
    2. If there is a collective agreement and the person you hire is not a member of that union, then you must give the employee a copy of the applicable collective agreement. If they choose to join the union they will be covered by the collective agreement, or if they choose not to join you can negotiate a new individual employment agreement with them.
    3. If there is no collective agreement in your workplace, then the new employee will be covered by an individual employment agreement.
  • Inform new employees they have the right to independent advice from a lawyer, a union, their family or someone else they trust when considering the terms of the agreement. Give them reasonable time to do this before they sign the agreement.
  • Sometimes you may want to employ someone for a set period of time (e.g. for six months) or until a certain event occurs (e.g. until a particular project ends) or until work is completed (e.g. until the fruit is picked). There are extra rules that you need to know for a fixed-term agreement. See the fixed-term agreement factsheet for more information.
  • A new employee has the right to join or not join a union. Don’t try to influence their choice.
  • If you wish to change an aspect of your employee’s employment agreement, for example, their hours of work, you will need to get your employee’s agreement to do this.

What you could do

  • You can both agree additional conditions to a collective agreement, such as specific school holiday arrangements, or agreed start or finishing times.  These additional conditions must be better than those in the collective agreement.
  • See the Mandatory list of clauses to get an idea of the clauses that must be included in an agreement.
  • Use the Employment Agreement Builder to create an individual agreement for your employee. This tool is free and has notes to explain each clause.
  • It’s always a good idea to get advice from an employment lawyer or employment relations consultant to ensure the agreement suits your business requirements.
  • If you belong to a Chamber of Commerce or a regional industry organisation, you may be able to access free employment help as part of your membership fee.
  • Make your employment expectations clear to your new employee and negotiate the terms in the agreement fairly.