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In New Zealand, it is relatively common for employees to have multiple jobs, also known as ‘secondary employment’. While this is legal, it is possible for employers to include terms in employment agreements that prohibit employees from having a second job. However, to do so, employers must have a real reason for the requirement that is based on reasonable grounds. Otherwise, employees are free to work for another employer, although they are still subject to good faith obligations.This article will explain:

  • the legalities of employees working multiple jobs;
  • how an employer can prevent an employee from working in a second job; and
  • the good faith obligations that are relevant for an employee.

Is It Generally Legal To Have Multiple Jobs?

In New Zealand, it is legal to work multiple jobs. There are many occasions where this occurs.

For example, an employee working a full-time job is building their start-up on the side. Alternatively, an employee has to work multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.

This is also referred to as ‘secondary employment’. When employees have multiple jobs, they still have an obligation in each role. Here, they have to fulfil the requirements of their role. They cannot use their time in one job to do work for the other. There are other good faith obligations for employees, which are covered later in this article.

Can An Employer Legally Prevent An Employee From Working In A Second Job?

There are a range of valid reasons why you might want to prevent your employees from taking secondary employment. 

For example, you may be concerned about protecting your business’ commercially sensitive information if your employee works in a role where they are privy to a large amount of confidential information.

You can specify in employment agreements that an employee cannot work for another employer. You may instead outline that they need your consent to do so. 

However, for this to be legally valid, you must have a real reason based on reasonable grounds. What constitutes a ‘real reason’ depends on the context of your business and industry. For instance, common examples of real reasons include:

  • protecting your business’ commercially sensitive information;
  • protecting your business’ intellectual property;
  • preventing a conflict of interest; and
  • protecting your business’ commercial reputation.

Even if you have a real reason such as the one above, it must still be based on reasonable grounds.

For instance, if your reason is that preventing your employees from working for another employer is necessary to protect your business’ commercially sensitive information, there must be sufficiently sensitive commercial information that is relevant.

It is also important to remember that even if there is no term in their employment agreement prohibiting them from secondary employment, employees are still under other obligations to your business as part of their general good faith obligation

The Employee’s Good Faith Obligations

No matter the content of their employment agreement, employees are under certain responsibilities and owe obligations to behave in a fair and reasonable way. For instance, an employee cannot mislead or deceive their employer, and they cannot act in a way that harms their employer’s business. This might include using information from one of their jobs to assist another employer, breaching confidentiality.

More generally, employees who work multiple roles must ensure that this does not impact their ability to fulfil the duties of each role. They have a health and safety obligation to take reasonable care of themselves so that the additional work does not risk themselves or anyone else in their workplace. In addition, there are requirements of good communication. Your employee should always be open and honest with you, including when discussing their other employment.

Key Takeaways

Employers do have the capacity in New Zealand to prevent their employees from working in secondary employment or having multiple roles. This must be specified in the employee’s employment agreement. However, if an employer would like to do this, they must have a real reason based on reasonable grounds, such as safeguarding their business’ commercially sensitive information or assets. If they do not, it is perfectly legal for an employee to work another job or have another employer. However, there are still active good faith obligations for employees. Among other things, employees cannot perform work for a second job during their working hours for their main job, and cannot breach confidentiality or deceive their employer. If you want to know more about designing employment agreements or managing employees with multiple jobs, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone work multiple jobs in New Zealand?

Yes, the general rule is that working multiple jobs is legal unless an employee’s employment agreement provides otherwise. 

When can an employer stop an employee from working in their second job?

An employer can include in an employee’s employment agreement that they cannot work for another employer (or that they must get consent before doing so). This is only a valid restriction if the employer has a real reason for doing so based on reasonable grounds. 

What is secondary employment?

When an employee has additional employment or work outside their job with your business. 

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