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Employees' rights in New Zealand - Minimum rights and Entitlements

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Minimum rights and entitlements
A number of rights and entitlements arise from the various employment enactments. Under New Zealand law, an employee cannot be asked to agree to less than the minimum rights and obligations as provided by the law. An employee must have a written agreement and the minimum employment rights must be met whether or not they are included in this agreement.

Minimum wage
The minimum wage rates apply to all employees and must be paid if a person is over 16 years of age and not a starting-out or trainee worker. The wage rates are reviewed annually by the government.

As at 1 April 2019, the minimum wage is set at $17.70 for adults and $14.16 for the starting-out rate.

Meal and rest breaks
Employers must keep an accurate record of an employee's time worked, payments, and holiday and leave entitlements. Employees are currently entitled to:

One 10-minute paid rest break when they work between two and four hours
One 10-minute paid rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break when they work more than four and up to six hours
Two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break when they work more than six and up to eight hours

These requirements begin over again where the employee works more than eight hours. The legislation provides for breaks to be taken at times mutually agreed between the employer and employee. If there is no agreement, then the breaks must be evenly distributed throughout the work period.

The minimum break entitlements are currently under review by Parliament. This has caused controversy in some circles in New Zealand. The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) has argued the relaxation of the breaks provision places too much power in the hands of the employer and raises concerns about workplace health and safety.

Holidays and leave
Employees are entitled to four weeks' paid annual holiday leave at the end of each year of employment. New Zealand also has 11 annual public holidays and an employee is entitled to these days off work on pay, if they are days when the employee would normally work. Where an employee does work a public holiday, the employee must be paid at least time-and-a-half for the time worked and is also entitled to an alternative paid holiday. After 6 months of employment an employee is entitled to 5 days' sick leave on pay and paid bereavement leave. The entitlement varies from:

Three days' leave on the death of a spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or spouse/partner's parent (That is, three days for each separate bereavement, even if they all occurred simultaneously.)
One day if their employer accepts they have suffered a bereavement involving another person not included above.

Employees may also be entitled to paid and unpaid parental leave if they meet certain criteria. This paid leave is funded by the government, not employers.


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