Whatever industry you are in, as an employee, you have a set of basic rights in the workplace. The right to privacy, freedom from discrimination and fair compensation are just some of the basic rights that you possess, but that’s just scratching the surface.
Knowing your rights as an employee doesn’t just protect you from your employer – it also protects you from circumstances that may not be in anyone else’s control.
Your Health and Safety
When we talk about employee rights, you usually think about rights concerning you and your employers. This includes your obligations as well as theirs. As mentioned before, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what kind of rights you possess.
Some of the lesser known (to most people) employee rights in New Zealand concern health and safety in the workplace. These rights are often associated with people working in particularly dangerous professions, but these are applicable to all industries and workplaces.
It’s important to know that while the responsibility of upholding health and safety in the workplace ultimately falls on your employer, you are as responsible for your own well-being. Your employer can be accountable if an accident happens due to their negligence, but it’s also your responsibility to adhere to any policies or procedures in your workplace.
Unsafe Working Conditions
Now, if you think that your workplace is unsafe and poses a real risk to your well-being, you have the right to raise the concern to your employers and refuse to do work altogether on the grounds of safety. Take note that the risk in your workplace needs to be an immediate or imminent threat.
Before you refuse to work, though, you need to take up the concern with your employer’s health and safety committee. Alternatively, you may need to approach a specific officer in charge of handling these concerns. They will be the ones to determine if you have reasonable grounds in terms of refusing to do work in your workplace.
It’s easy to forget that you, as an employee, have rights protecting you from potential hazards in the workplace. You may not be working in a dangerous profession, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read up on your health and safety rights; after all, it’s there to protect you and to make sure the responsible parties are accountable for their negligence and inaction.