The general principle of alternative holidays is that employees should receive a replacement day off when they have to work on a public holiday, that would otherwise be a normal working day. This requires you to provide your employees with a full day off, no matter how many hours they actually worked on the public holiday in question. This article sets out: 

  • when employees become entitled to alternative holidays; 
  • common misconceptions around that process; and 
  • the rules around how employees can actually take alternative holidays in practice. 

When Does An Employee Become Entitled To An Alternative Holiday?

Employees may take an alternative holiday when they work on a public holiday that would otherwise be a working day for them. It does not matter which public holiday it is, nor how many hours your employee actually works on that day. 

However, an employee has no right to an alternative holidays if they work on a public holiday that would not otherwise be a working day for them. You must still pay them at the rate of at least time and a half for the hours they work. 

There are additional rules around alternative holidays if an employee is on call for a public holiday, that is otherwise a day they would normally work. If the employee has to limit their activities on the day to an extent that means they have not enjoyed a “full holiday”, they will have a right to an alternative holiday. 

For instance, if the employee has to stay at home all day in case they are called out, they have the right to take a full day’s paid alternative holiday even if they are not actually called out.

Examples Where An Employee Has No Right to an Alternative Holiday

There are a large number of misconceptions around alternative holidays, specifically in terms of when your workers have no entitlement to alternative holidays. For clarity, an employee has no legal entitlement to a replacement day off:

  • if the employee works on a public holiday that would not otherwise be a working day (though you still need to pay them time and a half for those hours);
  • if you only employed them to work on public holidays, for example, employees hired to help with increased customer demand on public holidays have no entitlement to an alternative holiday for working on those days; and
  • if the employee is on call during the public holiday but that arrangement does not restrict or prevent them from enjoying a full holiday, and you never actually call them into work.

Taking an Alternative Holiday

The process for taking alternative holidays requires your employee to first agree with you which day they may take off. This day needs to be a day they would normally work and cannot be a public holiday.

If you cannot agree with the employee when they should take their alternative holiday, you can select it on their behalf. However, your decision must be reasonable and you must give the employee at least 14 days of notice of when their alternative holiday will take place. 

If more than a year passes since the public holiday your employee worked and they have not yet taken the alternative holiday, they can ask you to pay it out at a sum that you and your employee agree to.

Key Takeaways

Alternative holidays in New Zealand are a legal means of ensuring that employees who work on public holidays still get days off through the year. If an employee works any part of a public holiday that would normally be a working day for them, they have the right to take a full paid day off instead. This entitlement also applies to employees who are on call for a public holiday, even if you never actually call them out, if you restricted them from enjoying the full holiday. Employees should agree with their employer on when the alternative holiday should take place. If you have any questions about alternative holidays, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

FAQs

When are employees entitled to alternative holidays?

Employees are entitled to alternative holidays when they work on a public holiday that would otherwise be a working day for them.

How does an employee take an alternative holiday?

An employee should agree with you as to which day they take for an alternative holiday. If you cannot agree with the employee when they should take their alternative holiday, you can select it on their behalf. However, it must be a ‘reasonable’ decision, and you must give the employee at least 14 days of notice of when their alternative holiday will take place.

Does a casual employee who only works on public holidays as cover have the right to alternative holidays?

No, they are not. However, they are entitled to be paid time and a half.

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