Recognising quality employers and improving employment standards and practices

Tourism and hospitality employers who have good employment standards and practices are attractive to employees (both existing and potential new employees) and provide a work environment where employees feel valued and looked after. By lifting employment standards and practices, tourism and hospitality businesses should find it easier to attract and retain sufficient and skilled labour.

Tourism and hospitality in Aotearoa New Zealand have long experienced challenges to attract and retain employees. Part of the reason for these challenges is employment standards and practices. While there are businesses with good employment practices, there are perceptions (and evidence to indicate) that standards are often lower than in other industries [1]. For example, while the industry has seen some wage rate increases over the past 5 years, overall, the median wage for tourism is below that of the national median wage or median wages in industries with comparable entry requirements [2]; investment into staff training and education is low compared with other industries (potentially relying on ‘on the job’ training) [3]; and workplace bullying and harassment is disproportionately high [4].

There is also a high proportion of casualisation of the workforce due to seasonality and fluctuations in hours required in tourism. Although flexibility can be an attractive feature for some [5], the uncertainty deters others. Casual contracts generally lack many of the benefits workers would have on a fixed-term or permanent contract. Either or both factors mean that casualisation can be a barrier for attracting certain parts of the working population and can lead to a higher turnover of workers.

While some of these issues reflect structural realities, others can be challenged, for example the conditions and expectations set for a casual worker.

A reliance by the tourism industry on low-paid, casual/part-time, or short-term labour and migrant labour will maintain the challenge the industry faces in attracting and retaining talent.

Poor outcomes for workers have been shown to affect productivity and profitability. This Tirohanga Hou focuses on a foundational initiative – a workforce Accord – to shift the dial towards better pay and conditions for workers, leading to greater productivity for the industry. Better pay and conditions is also foundational, as it was identified by employees in the Workforce Survey, as being the main change that could make the industry better to work in [6].

An Accord will provide a platform that recognises that many employers in the industry have created, and/or are striving to create, positive working conditions for their staff. At present, there is no obvious way for prospective employees and customers to distinguish these quality employers from the rest – and even the best businesses can be negatively affected by the overall perceptions of the industry. An Accord will enable workers, consumers, and other organisations to identify businesses that are acting as good employers. 

Initiative 1: The Tourism and Hospitality Accord 

Initiative 1 – Establish a Tourism and Hospitality Accord (The Accord)

Establish a workforce accord for the tourism and hospitality industries, providing a set of paerewa on good employment practices for businesses to voluntarily sign up to. 

Outcomes sought

To lift workplace standards and practices of the tourism and hospitality industries, which will also address the issue of attracting and retaining workers to tourism.

Other positive outcomes could include:

  • providing clearer guidance to tourism and hospitality businesses around employment practices, allowing them to plan their business operations more effectively
  • helping empower workers to understand their rights and obligations
  • enabling education institutions to guide their graduates towards good employment
  • challenging public perceptions of a tourism and hospitality career.

The proposed Tourism and Hospitality Accord (the Accord) is an employer accreditation scheme that identifies those businesses in tourism and hospitality who are treating their staff well. The Accord would contain a set of ‘paerewa’ (standards and values) for businesses to meet that confirm they are a good employer.

The paerewa of the Accord would be developed in consultation with business owners, employees, unions, and government covering pay and conditions, training, health and safety, and other standards that contribute to an inclusive and supportive working environment. Tools and resources may also be identified as part of this Tirohanga Hou and will be included in the Accord collateral to support and guide businesses to achieve the standards/values. These tools and resources may help businesses find existing material, include new material developed for tourism and hospitality businesses, and/or highlight exemplars.

The Accord would differ from a Fair Pay Agreement. A Fair Pay Agreement would set a new legal minimum, while the Accord will be a voluntary scheme and will be open to any business that self-identifies as tourism or hospitality. The idea has its origins in industry-led conversations and was mooted in the Workforce Wānanga hosted by Go with Tourism in November 2021. The Accord would aim to help good businesses lift the bar across a number of employment dimensions.

The Accord would also act as a supporting initiative for the other Tirohanga Hou. Many of the standards/values will cover elements of the other Tirohanga Hou, and so the Accord will act to support the wider Better Work Action Plan. For example, the Accord may include a paerewa on diversity, which will relate closely to the 'Improving cultural competency and ensuring authentic storytelling' Tirohanga Hou.

Benefit to businesses that join the Accord

Businesses will be able to demonstrate that they are good employers, providing more than legal minimums for their workers. This will give them the ability to attract quality staff and market themselves as an ethical business to consumers. Members will be named on the Accord website and be able to use Accord branding in their own recruitment and marketing. Educational institutions will be able to use the Accord to guide recommendations on places of work to their graduates.

Benefits to workers 

The Accord would deliver Better Work by giving those working in the industry a clear indication of where they will be respected, supported, and appropriately rewarded, enabling them to make informed choices about who to work for. The existence of the Accord and supporting publicity will also help challenge public perceptions and the cultural devaluing of people who work in the service industries. It is a step forward in shaping a new narrative.  

Benefit to consumers and other organisations

Consumers will be able to make informed purchase choices. Research indicates that consumers are increasingly factoring ethics into their consumption choices. The Colmar Brunton Better Futures Report in 2020 found that 76% of New Zealanders said they would stop buying a company’s products or using their services if they heard about them being irresponsible or unethical [7]. Other businesses and organisations will also be able to make informed decisions on which businesses they choose to engage with, as many businesses may also want to factor ethics into their business and consumption choices.


Public consultation strongly supported the Accord proposal. Some participants noted particular points to be considered when designing and delivering the Accord. For example, a key point made by businesses was to minimise compliance costs, particularly to enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with limited resources and time to join. We also heard that it was essential for the Accord to have sufficient rigour in assessment and monitoring requirements to ensure the ongoing integrity of the initiative.

Some suggested exploring the potential for the Accord to be delivered by an existing industry quality framework, such as Qualmark.

Feedback from workers and unions centred on the importance of transparency in assessing business practice, and on ensuring the paerewa were strong enough to be credible and a step above legal minimums.


The Better Work Leadership Group has agreed that the Accord should aim to ‘lift the middle’. The Accord, therefore, will not focus on the bottom 10% of poor performers, nor on the top 10% of star performers. There are already other instruments that are targeted at any businesses that are not meeting legal minimum standards, such as the Labour Inspectorate. The Accord will describe what ‘good’ looks like, and drive awareness of business practices. The Better Work Leadership Group has also agreed that the paerewa should be set at a level whereby the majority of tourism and hospitality businesses can see themselves meeting the standards but recognise they may involve making changes to some aspects of their employment practices.

The Accord will be overseen by a Steering Group (a sub-group of the Leadership Group), which will aim to deliver sustainable employment outcomes. The Steering Group comprises seven representatives of business, unions, workers, government, and Māori, drawn from the Leadership Group.

Key questions for the Steering Group to consider as they develop the Accord include:

  • specifics of the paerewa that businesses will need to meet and maintain
  • the nature of the assessment process
  • the ongoing governance mechanism and delivery agency.

Once the Accord has been developed, it will be beta tested with a selection of businesses from tourism and hospitality to ensure its workability, before being launched.


1. Perceptions of Careers in the Tourism Industry [PDF, 2.8 MB](external link) — Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and Tourism Industry Aotearoa

Evidence on the workplace standards in tourism is set out at:

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2. Workforce Survey — sets out the evidence on wages in tourism [Back to text]  

3. Evidence on training in tourism is set out at:

[Back to text

4. Experience of Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Aotearoa New Zealand [PPT, 1,732 KB](external link) — Kantar Public, for the Human Rights Commission (August 2022) [Back to text

5. Workforce Survey — Sets out the evidence on the workplace standards in tourism. The Workforce Survey notes that 20% of participants chose ‘the nature of the work in tourism and hospitality’ as the reason they were attracted to the industry. [Back to text

6. Workforce Survey — A large majority (33%) of participants in the Workforce Survey identified this as a change which could be made to make working in these industries better. [Back to text

7. Better Futures 2020(external link) — Bolger, S. (2020), Kantar [Back to text

Last updated: 28 June 2023