Labour Law in NZ

Labour Law in New Zealand

Labour Law in New Zealand

Labour Law in New Zealand


The employment quota is not very high in New Zealand so usually it doesn’t take long to find a well-paid temporary job. Especially during harvest season backpackers find jobs at an average wage of 16-19 NZD per hour.

In 2011 the legal minimum wage was 13 NZD (approximately 7-8 Euros per hour). However, this may vary from year to year. From April 2017 onwards the legal minimum wage will be $15.75 NZD.

Fruit Picking is very popular where fruit and vegetables are picked, gathered and packed. This can be physically demanding. You are paid by the number of pieces and the wage is often calculated hourly. Thus you may receive per 500kg picked fruit $20-25 NZD. Some farms take on workers and give them free food and accommodation in exchange for all kinds of jobs.

You are, of course, also entitled to breaks and most work places have the following rules: Every 2 to 4 hours of work you are entitled to a ten minute paid break. If you work up to 6 hours you are entitled to a ten minute paid break and 30 minutes for lunch (unpaid). An 8 hour day entitles you to 2 ten minute paid breaks and a 30 minute lunch break (unpaid).

For some temporary jobs you may also need a licence besides a good knowledge of English. For instance, if you work as a barman or in a casino licences (e.g. General Manager’s Licence) are usually required.

If you are looking for permanent employment according to your education and training the New Zealand Labour Law will be of interest to you (detailed information in English at You would be entitled to 20 days paid holidays – that is 4 weeks per year.

A job dismissal protection as we know it in Germany does not exist as such. An employer or an employee can stop the work relationship from one day to the next. However, if you signed an employment agreement the employer must give you notice as stated in your contract. The employer has the right to dismiss you at any time, provided that he sticks to the clauses of the employment agreement.

As a worker you also have the possibility to join a union. Similar to our German collective agreements, workers belonging to a union are protected by collective agreements. Non-union members sign individual employment contracts with their employer.

An employment agreement contains the level of the agreed pay, the period of notice, the areas of work responsibility and the duration of the agreement as well as the number of paid holidays, paid public holidays, sick leave, bereavement and maternity leave. Before you may take up a job you will need a tax number (IRD Form IR 330). Like in Germany income tax in New Zealand is paid by the employer and the amount depends on the level of income. The tax department (IRD) determines your tax class.

In most work places safety is of utmost importance. In case of an accident the government accident insurance ACC comes into play. The employer is required to pay contributions to ACC for you. The amount depends on the wage you are paid. ACC pays for the treatment costs after an accident. However, for the payment of days spent in hospital you should cover yourself with a private accident insurance.

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