Guide to Working in New Zealand

Holidays & Leave

Keeping Records
Employers must keep an accurate record of an employee’s time worked, payments, and holiday and leave entitlements.

They must keep a signed copy of the employment agreement or current signed terms and conditions, and must provide a copy on request to the employee. They should also keep copies of agreements to transfer public holidays
or agreements to cash up annual holidays or copies of requests to transfer public holidays or request to cash up annual holidays that the employer did not agree to.For details on what information must be recorded see the Ministry’s website.

Rest and Meal Break Entitlements
Employees are entitled to rest and meal breaks that:

  • give them a reasonable chance during work periods to rest, refresh and take care of personal matters
  • are appropriate for the length of time they have worked for the employer.

However, there are no specific rules for how long, or when, rest and meal breaks should be – employers and employees should bargain in good faith over the timing and length of breaks.

If an employer does not provide an employee with breaks, this should be discussed by both parties. An employee can take a representative (such as a family member or a union rep) along during a discussion with their employer if they’re not comfortable addressing the issue on their own.

Compensation instead of breaks
An employer and employee can agree to compensation instead of breaks. However, employers must compensate employees if no break is given where a break would be appropriate. There are no set rules as to what appropriate compensation is, but it must be reasonable. Compensation is reasonable if of similar value to the break.

Employees with babies
Employers must provide appropriate breaks and facilities for employees with babies, and who wish to breastfeed or express breast milk, where this is reasonable and practicable. These are unpaid breaks unless the employer agrees otherwise.

Additional entitlements
Employers and employees are free to agree to additional entitlements to rest and meal breaks — either paid or unpaid.

Annual holidays
At the end of each year of employment with any one employer, an employee becomes entitled to four weeks’ paid annual holidays.

Employees can ask (in writing) to cash-up, up to one week of their annual holidays each year. Employers can’t pressure employees to cash up annual holidays and requests to cash up can’t be included in  employment agreements. If an employee leaves before completing a full year of employment, annual holiday pay would be 8% of their gross earnings, less any holiday pay already received. Genuinely casual employees (those who work intermittently) and fixed term employees can agree to receive holiday pay on a “pay as you go basis” if certain conditions are met. See the Ministry’s website for more information. Employers can require employees to take annual holidays during a closedown period (as can happen over Christmas/New Year),  providing they give at least 14 days’ notice. If an employer has a closedown period that includes public holidays, then the employee is entitled to paid public holidays if they would be otherwise working days for them.

Public Holidays
Employees are entitled to 11 public holidays off work on pay, if they are days when the employee would normally work.

Employers must pay employees their relevant daily pay or average daily pay (if applicable) for the public holiday.
If an employee works on a public holiday they must be paid at least time-and-ahalf for the time worked. If the public holiday falls on a day they would normally work, the employee is also entitled to an  alternative paid holiday. Employers and employees can agree to transfer the observance of a public holiday to another working day, to meet the needs of the business or individual employees. However, the number of public  holidays the employee is entitled to can’t be reduced. The day the public holiday is transferred to is treated as a public holiday for pay and leave purposes. The Ministry’s website has a list of public holidays and the Holidays & Leave Tool makes it easy to work out pay and leave entitlements. (

Sick and Bereavement Leave
After six months an employee is entitled to five days sick leave on pay.

They are entitled to five days sick leave for every 12 months after that. Sick leave can be taken if the employee is sick or injured or the employee’s spouse or partner is sick or injured or if a person who depends on the employee for care is sick or injured. Employers must pay employees their relevant daily pay or average daily pay (if applicable) for sick leave. Employers can request proof of the illness, such as a medical certificate. If the employer asks for proof within the first three days of the sick leave, the employer is responsible for any costs the employee might incur to gain this proof. Employers can’t insist employees visit a particular medical practitioner.
After six months employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave of:

  • three days on the death of a spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or spouse/partner’s parent
  • one day if their employer accepts they’ve suffered a bereavement involving another person not included above.

The Holidays & Leave Tool can help calculate sick leave and bereavement leave entitlements.

Parental Leave
Employees may be eligible for paid and unpaid parental leave if they meet certain criteria.The paid leave is funded by Government, not employers.

Employees may be entitled to parental leave if they have worked for the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours per week, and at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month, for either the six or 12 months before the expected due date of their baby or the date they assume care of a child they intend adopting. Employees who meet the six-month employment eligibility criteria are entitled to 14 weeks’ paid parental leave – some or all of which can be transferred to a spouse/partner if they also meet the six month criteria. Employees who meet the 12-month eligibility criteria, are also entitled to up to 52 weeks’ unpaid extended leave (less any parental leave taken). This can be shared with a spouse/partner if they also meet the 12-month eligibility criteria. A spouse/partner with six months’ service may be entitled to an additional one weeks’ unpaid paternity/partner’s leave, and a spouse/partner with 12 months’ service may be entitled to two weeks’ unpaid paternity/partner’s leave. To be eligible, the spouse/partner must meet the minimum hours test above. Up to 10 days’ unpaid special leave for pregnancy-related reasons is available for a pregnant mother before parental leave begins. For help understanding entitlement to parental leave, or what to do with an application from an employee, see the Ministry’s website. The Parental Leave Calculator can calculate entitlements.