When we are educated on our legal employment rights, we say ‘no’ to exploitation in Aotearoa. Our society should feel dignified to exercise the human right to know about things that directly affect us. Mandatory learning of legal rights will allow all members of society to formally acknowledge that exploitation of its most vulnerable members has never aligned with our Aotearoa values. Through education, we can liberate Aotearoa from worker exploitation that otherwise seeks to undermine the unity that our hearts desire.
It is the government’s responsibility to provide the basic human right of education, as both employees and employers do not necessarily have the expertise or resources to enforce awareness on complex business such as employment law.
Employment law education should be the responsibility of government because, in the long run, it will save government both money and time in taking dishonest employers to court. That is, if every employee becomes educated, it is far less likely that they will be taken advantage of, which means there will be less need for costly investigations. The authoritative position of government in formalizing knowledge on employment rights, would lessen ambiguity and uncertainty around employment knowledge, that otherwise currently exists within Aotearoa society. Employers would no longer be able to pervert ambiguity and uncertainty as the mechanism to exploiting their workers.
Government does not need to spend huge amounts of money and time on educating the workforce on employment law. There are many lower-cost, lower-effort ways to getting the message out. Free online/correspondence courses and printed material are some examples of ways to enforce education, as opposed to the stigma of education as being limited to only expensive options. The social cost (repercussions) of not educating the workforce of their rights is much higher than the economic cost of providing people with, in the least, a simple understanding of their rights.
There are better priorities for taxpayer money than being used for enforcement of employment education.
The idea of mandatory employment education, in itself, somewhat dismisses government’s commitment to eliminating worker exploitation. Government are already committed to worker exploitation, as they spend large amounts of time and money to bringing those who break the law to justice.
The responsibility of employment education should not fall on government just because there may be some in society who believe that the government should enforce this education. It should be the responsibility of every employee him/herself to be aware of their own rights, and equally the responsibility of employers to be aware the rights of their employees, not rely on government to instigate the necessity for educative awareness. The government already provides many useful resources for those who are willing to educate themselves. Anyone who is too lazy to do their own research, opens themselves up to exploitation. This lack of self-initiative has nothing to do with government.
Being educated on employment law means that workers will not tolerate ill treatment at the hands of their employers. Workers will then understand what the law does and does not allow, for example being paid below minimum wage is unlawful. When we understand our own rights, we are forced to take notice of each others’ situations—putting ourselves in each others’ shoes. In doing so, we stand up for each other and become a formidable force for change. When society has many numbers of people standing up for things they believe in, there is a powerful sense of unity. The culture of society changes from apathetic and distant to empathetic and close-relational.
When education is valued as important, we then are able to acknowledge the deeper issues in society, like the rampant nature of worker exploitation. We want to take pride in our nation’s multiculturalism, but we cannot do so when groups within our society are being taken advantage of. As a society, if we allow certain groups of people to fall through the cracks, then we are failing as a society. The measure of a society is in how it treats its most vulnerable. Having mandatory education in employment law will ensure an empathetic and close-relational society that stands up for each other and lets no-one fall into exploitative activity.
It is a human right to have access to education. Article 26(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the United Nations (UN), states that education should fully develop the human personality and strengthen respect for human rights. Nothing can develop the human personality or grow respect for human rights better, than teaching the workforce of Aotearoa to protect themselves against unlawful employment situations like exploitation. Lack of education about employment law robs people of the basic human right to equality and justice in the workplace. This happens because uneducated workers do not know that the law has protections for them and so, as a consequence, they are taken advantage of.
The Treaty of Waitangi laid the vision for how Aotearoa society should function to preserve the rights of all who call this nation home, and which aligns with the United Nations (UN) and its values for the respect of human rights. Article 3 (Ko te Tuatoru) of the Treaty instills the rights and responsibilities of Aotearoa to equality. Aotearoa’s workforce should never be exempt to the fact that equality and rights for all people have always been important in Aotearoa, or even though we may feel society has delved from this vision. Lack of education impedes human rights, as explained, and so by making employment education mandatory means that we acknowledge the Treaty’s vision of respect for human rights in today’s Aotearoa.
If you look at the people in society who are most likely to be taken advantage of in an employment situation, they are often migrants who do not have good (if any) knowledge of Aotearoa’s employment laws. Migrants are often not aware of the protections that the law has in employment and, consequently, they are unlikely to seek independent advice that would otherwise bring awareness to them. Even when migrants feel that their employer is treating them unfairly, they do not speak out for fear of losing their job. However, according to employment law, no one can lose their job for speaking out about illegal activity.
If an employer seeks to exploit they will generally hire people that are uneducated in relation to their rights, as this means employers are much less likely to get caught. However, if all employees were required to be educated, it would take away the power that dishonest employers have to trap workers into unfair situations. No educated person would put up with being illegally used by their employer!
An employee who is educated of their rights will have no fear in whistle-blowing illegal activity. The fact that we see so much migrant exploitation proves that lack of education allows exploitation to thrive. Making employment education mandatory will result in worker exploitation being removed from Aotearoa.
Knowledge on employment law is lacking in the workforce of Aotearoa. Namely, lack of knowledge encourages worker exploitation because the legal rights of employees are open to exploitation. It should be imperative that employment rights, according to New Zealand laws, be communicated to everyone engaged in work.