The minimum rights listed here apply by law to all employees. These rights apply even if they have not been included in employment agreements. Employers and employees cannot agree to do away with any of these minimum rights, but they can agree to better ones.
Annual Holidays - Holidays Act 2003
At the end of each year of employment with any one employer, an employee becomes entitled to four weeks' paid annual holiday. An employee will still get holiday pay for any shorter periods of work. For example, if the employee leaves the job after six months, holiday pay would be 8% of their gross earnings.
Where an employee is employed for a fixed term of less than 12 months, or they are a casual employee who works so irregularly that it is not possible to identify four weeks holidays, the employee can agree to receive their holiday pay on a “pay as you go” basis. An employment agreement would need to provide explicitly for such an arrangement, and the amount paid as holiday pay must be:
- at least 8% of the employee's gross earnings, and
- must be shown separately on the employee's pay slip.
Employees are also entitled to 11 paid public holidays if they fall on days they would normally work.
Sick leave - Holidays Act 2003
After six months with an employer, an employee is entitled to five days' paid sick leave during the next 12 months of employment. Sick leave can be taken for themselves or to care for their spouse, dependent child or parent. Unused sick leave can accumulate up to 20 days.
Special eligibility tests apply for employees in non-continuous (such as casual). For more information, visit www.ers.dol.govt.nz/holidays.
Bereavement leave - Holidays Act 2003
After six months with an employer, an employee is entitled to paid bereavement leave of:
- three days on the death of a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or the spouse’s parent; and
- one day if the employer accepts that the employee has suffered a bereavement.
Special eligibility tests apply for employees in non-continuous (such as casual).
For more information, visit www.ers.dol.govt.nz/holidays_act_2003.
Minimum wages - Minimum Wage Act 1983
The minimum wage for employees aged 18 years and over rose to $12 an hour before tax on 1 April, 2008. That’s $96 for an eight hour day, or $480 for a 40 hour week.
The training wage rose to $9.60 an hour before tax as of 1 April 2008. That’s $76.80 for an eight hour day, and $384 for a 40 hour week. The training wage applies to people doing recognised industry training involving at least 60 credits a year.
There is no longer a minimum wage for youth as of 1 April 2008. Instead there is a new entrants minimum wage. The new entrants minimum wage is $9.60 an hour before tax . That’s $76.80 for an eight hour day, and $384 for a 40 hour week. The new entrants minimum wage applies to some 16 and 17 year old workers.
There is no statutory minimum wage for employees who are under 16 years old.
Even after 40 hours, an employee must still be paid at least the minimum wage. The minimum wage does not apply to those who hold an exemption or to those doing recognised industry training. Those doing recognised training must be paid the minimum training wage - the same rate as the minimum youth wage. It does apply to anyone on commission or piece rates.
For more information, visit www.ers.dol.govt.nz/pay.
For more information about new entrants, go to http://www.ers.govt.nz/pay/newentrant.html
Payment of wages - Wages Protection Act 1983
The employer generally needs to get the employee's written consent to make deductions from their pay, or to pay their wages in a form other than cash, unless the employment agreement allows otherwise.
Equal pay & equal rights - Equal Pay Act 1972 & Human Rights Act 1993
The employer cannot differentiate in pay rates between employees if the only difference is their sex.
Also, in most cases, the employer cannot discriminate in hiring or firing, training or promoting because of the employee's race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital or family status, employment status, age, religious belief or political opinion, or if they have a disability.
Parental leave - Parental Leave & Employment Protection Act 1987
An employee and their partner can apply for parental leave either on the birth of a child, or the adoption of a child under 5. They must have worked at least an average of 10 hours each week, including at least one hour per week or 40 hours per month, for the same employer for either 6 or 12 months before the expected date of birth or adoption.
They may also be entitled to up to 14 weeks paid parental leave, which is taxpayer-funded. The payment can be taken by one parent, or shared between two eligible partners. Like wages, the payment is taxed.
It is illegal for an employer to either dismiss or discriminate against an employee on grounds of pregnancy or for taking parental leave under the Act.
Other leave rights
Employees may also be entitled to other rights in some situations. For example:
- Employees who are injured as a result of an accident at work or somewhere else will be entitled to accident compensation. Your nearest ACC office can give they information about this (see the blue pages in the front of the phone book).
- If employees do full-time voluntary training in the armed forces, they may be entitled to unpaid leave.
Union membership rights
Employees have an absolute right to make their own decision about whether they want to join a union and, if so, which union. It is illegal for an employer to put unreasonable pressure on them to join or to not join a union, or to discriminate against them because they joined or didn't join a union.
It is also illegal for anyone else to put unreasonable pressure on an employee to join or to not join a union. Union members may be nominated by their union to undertake employment relations education on paid leave. Employees can ask their union about this.
Labour Inspectors can enforce the laws that relate to certain statutory minimum entitlements, such as annual leave, sick leave, public holidays and minimum wages.
If it appears that an employer has breached any of these laws, an employee can ask a Labour Inspector to investigate the matter on their behalf, or they can take an action themselves.
Further information & guidance
Call us free on the Department of Labour freephone 0800 20 90 20 during normal business hours, or visit our website at www.ers.dol.govt.nz.
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