The A-Z Pre-Employment Guide for employers & employees

For Advertising: See Job advertising


Q.Can an employer ask my age as part of the job application process?

A. No, you shouldn't be asked your age. It's good practice to employ the best person for the job, regardless of age.

The Human Rights Act protects against age discrimination once you reach 16 and there is no upper limit on age discrimination.

It's not good practice for an employer to ask about a job applicant’s age, or try to find out the applicant’s date of birth, or ask about the dates they attended schools or other educational institutions as the information may indicate the age of the applicant.

The Act provides a number of exceptions for age discrimination, including:

  • Where being a particular age or in a particular age group is a genuine occupational qualification, for example managing licensed premises
  • Where for reasons of authenticity being a particular age is a genuine occupational qualification, for example an actor
  • In employment carried out wholly or mainly outside New Zealand where the laws, customs, or practices of that country require it to be carried out by someone of a particular age group
  • In domestic employment in a private household
  • In work involving national security; if the work requires a secret or top-secret security clearance, an employee must be 20 years or over.

Q. Can an employer advertise for a young person so the business can project a youthful image, as most of the customers are young people?

A. No, that could be seen as being discriminating on the basis of age.

It's unlawful to publish a job advertisement that could reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to discriminate on the basis of age. Age discrimination is covered by the Act. This type of advertisement risks breaching the Act as it could be seen as suggesting that older applicants would not be employed.

The prohibited grounds of discrimination are listed here.

Q. What can I do if I’m fit and healthy but I’ve been told I’m too old for the job?

A. Unless an exception applies, you have grounds for an age discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

Q. In a job advertisement can an employer distinguish between junior and senior positions without it being seen as age related?

A. Yes. However, “senior” is best used only if it's a true description of the nature of the job and refers to the required level of expertise and competence rather than to the employee’s age.

Words such as “principal” or “experienced person” are better. A safe way of indicating a job’s level is to set out the expected salary range. Similarly, “junior” should only be used if it refers to the level of expertise or competence, not to the employee’s age. Descriptors such as “assistant” or “entry level” are more age neutral.


Q. Should I take out my body piercings for a job interview?

A. That will depend. If a body piercing is an aspect of religion or ethnicity, the Act protects against discrimination on these grounds.

For example, females from South Asia may wear a nose stud as part of religious belief or ethnicity. Body piercings that are purely decorative are not protected by the legislation. For example, an employer can probably ask an employee to remove a tongue stud while they are at work.

If a uniform or standard of dress is required, the agreement or contract between the employer and employee should clearly state the specifications involved.

See also: Dress code