Racial discrimination in the Kiwi workplace

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Almost 80,000 New Zealanders say they have experienced racial discrimination in an employment situation over the last year, according to a new statistics report.

The Statistics New Zealand report, Working together: Racial discrimination in New Zealand, found that:


  • Overall, about 143,000 (4.3%) New Zealanders reported that they had been discriminated against, either while at work, or when applying for (or keeping) a job.
  • Of this group, about 77,700 (2.3%) said the discrimination was because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Mäori, Pacific, and Asian peoples were more likely to report experiencing racial discrimination in the workplace than New Zealand Europeans.
  • Migrants were more likely to experience racial discrimination in the workplace than people who were born in New Zealand.
  • People with a formal qualification (whether secondary school, trade, or university) were more likely to report racial discrimination in the workplace than those with no qualifications.

These findings were likely to be of particular interest to human rights organisations, because employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees, the report noted. All New Zealand employees are protected from racial discrimination under the Human Rights Act, as well as the Employment Relations Act – which introduced processes for monitoring and reporting racial discrimination in the workplace.

Key HR takeaway:

Pre-employment: Under the Human Rights Act, an employer can only ask a jobseeker questions which have relevance to the job advertised. Any questions asked which have no relevance to the job (whether in an interview or on a job application form) and/or have to do with the race, ethnicity or national origin of the jobseeker are unlawful and could qualify as discrimination.

Employment: Under the Human Rights Act, it is unlawful for an employer to treat any employee less favourably because of their race, ethnicity or national origin. However, the Human Rights Commission has reported that it receives regular complaints about more complicated race-related issues – like “English language only” policies in the workplace – which are not straightforward and need to be dealt with sensitively.

The Human Rights Commission has a range of resources that explain employer and employee rights and responsibilities under human rights legislation, as well as providing information on making or responding to a complaint of racial discrimination or harassment.


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  • Jay on 6/10/2016 2:06:58 a.m.

    racial and ethinicity discrimination is very common in every business here in NZ. there are less chances to get job if we are not white. I was surprised when my application at New World was declined and they hired a white guy ( I had 10 months experience and that guy had zero experience). If we secured a job, they will treat us (non-white) differently like less pay, more work etcetera. I experience discrimination daily at my workplace. I work at countdown. If i left this job it will be difficult for me to pay bills thats why am not resigning. New Zealand is good only in pics n videos, in reality it sucks. Now you will say go back to your country. Yes, i will go back, I came to learn something new but i got only bad experiences. There are lots of nice kiwis but still many people hate non-whites.
    Am not a black guy but little brown.

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