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All employers should have a good working knowledge of leave entitlements in New Zealand. You should also ensure that your employees are undertaking leave when appropriate, such as sick leave when they are ill. All types of employees, including permanent, fixed-term, and casual, are entitled to leave. While the calculation of leave entitlements can be complicated for staff who work irregular or part-time hours, the leave entitlements themselves are relatively straightforward. This article will set out what you need to know about leave as an employer in New Zealand.

What Are the Minimum Leave Entitlements in New Zealand by Law?

New Zealand sets out basic entitlements that all employees in New Zealand receive. These include:

Type of Leave

Description

Annual Leave

Employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual holidays, often called ‘annual leave’. Generally, this entitlement kicks in for each 12 month period of continuous employment with your business.

Some employers prefer a ‘pay as you go’ system for casual employees. For instance, this may be advantageous when the employees’ work is inconsistent or unpredictable. Further, annual leave is aimed at making sure employees can rest, recuperate and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.

Public Holidays

New Zealanders have 11 public holidays each year, if these are days the employee would otherwise work. New Zealand has a system of ‘Mondayising’ public holidays if a public holiday falls on a weekend. This means employees can usually take the Monday afterwards off as if that day were also a public holiday. 

Public holidays are days of national, religious, or cultural significance. The intent is also to provide employees with irregular additional days off throughout the year.

Sick and Bereavement Leave

Most employees are entitled to five sick days per year. Employees are not usually entitled to sick leave before they have served six months of continuous employment with the same employer or worked consistently each week for the same employer for six months. Additionally, sick leave helps employees through illnesses and prevents the spread of illness in a business.


Bereavement leave is irregular and supports employees when a close family member dies.

Domestic Violence Leave

New Zealand recently passed legislation giving employees the right to up to 10 days’ paid leave if they have been affected by domestic violence in some way. Whether this is through being a victim or if they are supporting a victim. Within reason, the employee should discuss this with the business.

The employer is able to ask for ‘proof’, but should generally be willing to support the employee. Even in circumstances where they are unable on short notice to supply ‘proof’. For instance, this may entail flexible working arrangements.

What Do You Need to Tell Employees About Leave Entitlements?

Whenever you or your company is entering into an employment agreement, the law requires you to inform the employee:

  • about their entitlements under the Holidays Act 2003; and
  • that they can get more information about their entitlements from a union or from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. For example, you can do this by referring employees to the government’s Employment website (employment.govt.nz) and providing contact information for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Above all, including this information in the employment agreement is the easiest way for you to show that employees have been provided with this information.

This is very standard across industries and is included in most employment agreements in New Zealand, including collective agreements.

Key Takeaways

You must ensure that your employees get at least the minimum leave entitlements that New Zealand law outlines. A brief summary of these entitlements for most employees includes:

  • four weeks of annual leave a year, that employees can (within reason) choose to take when they like;
  • at least five days of sick leave a year for employees to take when they are sick or too ill to work or otherwise come into the office;
  • bereavement leave for when a close family member dies; and
  • at least 10 days of domestic violence leave if they are suffering or otherwise affected by domestic violence, for instance, if they are supporting a family member who is a victim of domestic violence.

If you want to know more about leave entitlements, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand employment lawyers on 0800 005 570, or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much annual leave do employees receive in New Zealand?

Four weeks of annual leave as a basic entitlement. However, some employers offer five or even six weeks of annual leave as a perk to recruit great employees.

Are public holidays compulsory?

Yes: all employees are entitled to public holidays off. In some industries, such as retail, where it is common for employees to work, they must be paid at least ‘time and a half’ (additional compensation) for working public holidays. Further, employees cannot contract out of receiving public holidays.

How much sick leave do employees receive in New Zealand?

Generally, at least five days a year. Increasingly, many employers offer 10 days as standard however.

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