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There are eleven public holidays in New Zealand, including one anniversary day for each province. All employees are entitled to a paid day off on any public holiday if it falls on a day they’d normally work. If they choose to work on the public holiday they are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half, and given another paid day off later (an alternative holiday).

Your employees are entitled to public holidays from the day they commence work with you, regardless of how many hours per week they work. Public holidays do not affect employees' leave entitlements.

The Holidays Act 2003 regulates public holidays and employee entitlements. 

Exceptions

The Christmas and New Years public holidays, Waitangi Day, and Anzac Day are all special cases if they fall on weekends. 

When a public holiday falls on a day they usually work

Employees are entitled to a paid day off when a public holiday falls on a day they usually work.

If your employee works on a public holiday, you must:

  • pay them at least time-and-a-half (1.5 times their daily pay), relative to the hours actually worked, and

  • give them one full paid day off later (an alternative holiday).

When a public holiday falls on a day they don't usually work

If your employee chooses to work on a public holiday that falls on a day they don’t usually work, they are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half, but they are not entitled to another paid day off. 

Alternative holidays

An employee can choose to work on a public holiday and take a paid day off later, in lieu of the public holiday. This is called an alternative holiday, and is simple to process though Ace Payroll.

Employees who work irregular hours

It can be confusing to determine if a public holiday would otherwise be a working day for an employee who works irregular hours.

Section 12 of the Holidays Act 2003 requires that the employee and the employer agree on regular hours for the purpose of leave entitlements, and lists a number of factors which need to be considered when deciding. If they cannot agree, section 13 provides for a Labour Inspector to decide instead. 

Public holidays after termination

When an employee’s employment ends, they are deemed to be still employed for the number days of unused leave owed to them. For example, if an employee is entitled to ten days of annual leave, they are to be considered an employee for ten working days after they have ceased work.

If a public holiday falls on one of these days, and that day would otherwise have been a working day for the employee, that day is counted as a public holiday rather than part of your employee’s leave. Your employee is entitled to be paid for that public holiday as if they were still working.

The rules for this are set out in section 40 of the Holidays Act 2003.