The Laws Behind Working for Accommodation in New Zealand
Working for accommodation or “WWOOFing” is a big thing in New Zealand. It’s a great way to stay somewhere a little longer while saving money on accommodation. However, due to a few cases of abuse buy WWOOFing hosts in recent years, it has come under closer scrutiny and inspections ran regularly nationwide to make sure that everyone plays by the rules. The main goal of the said inspections is to protect workers. As foreign workers, it is normal for you to not to know the ins and outs of the New Zealand work laws. For this reason, we have created the short recap below that covers the basics of working for accommodation in New Zealand. This will help you discuss a fair compensation for your work with your WWOOFing host and answer questions like: “What Visa do You Need to WWOOF in New Zealand?”
For more information on WWOOFing, be sure to check out the 10 Reasons Why WWOOFing is a New Zealand Must Do and Everything You Need to Know About WWOOFing in New Zealand.
What is WWOOFing?
WWOOFing is a concept where a host will exchange a free bed and free meals in exchange for help with daily tasks, such as farming or housekeeping. WWOOFing is extremely popular in New Zealand with hostels and small organic farmers.
The usual deal is to work 2-4hours per day for 5 days a week in exchange for a week of accommodation and food.
For more information, check out WWOOF vs HelpX.
What Visa Do You Need to WWOOF in New Zealand?
Before we start with your rights as a WWOOFer, let’s quickly cover if you have the right to work for accommodation in New Zealand. To be able to work for accommodation or even volunteer and be provided with lodging, you have to have a valid work visa. It can be a working holiday visa or another type of work visa.
Since accommodation is considered as a reward for work, under New Zealand laws you cannot work for accommodation in New Zealand if you are on a visitor visa. If you do so, you and your employers can be faced with charges. Be aware, inspections have been much more regular in recent years. For more information about visitor visas, see Visitor Visa: Do You Need a Visa to Visit New Zealand?
Do You Need a Contract to Work for Accommodation in New Zealand?
Most WWOOFing hosts have a pretty relaxed attitude and take a simple handshake as an agreement between you and them. However, under New Zealand laws, you have to have a proper work contract when working for accommodation.
Work for Accommodation Contracts Include Two Main Terms:
Board: Accommodation + three meals a day
Your contract will detail the specifics of your agreement, as well as offering you the option to work for accommodation or wage. You cannot be offered only the option to work for accommodation, you should be offered both either a wage or accommodation.
This Section on Your Contract Can Look Like this:
The first two hours of work each day are to be compensated by: (Check your chosen option)
– Board: Private room plus three daily meals (valued at NZ$50.00), or
– Hourly wage of NZ$20.
It is important for you to know that an employer does not have the right to force you to take accommodation with them. By law, you do have the choice to be paid a fair wage or rewarded with board or lodging.
Finally, the value of the accommodation provided cannot be lower than the value of your work at minimum wage. For instance, if you work for accommodation for two hours per day at a minimum wage of NZ$20, your reward must be of a minimum value of NZ$40.
Do You Need to Pay Taxes When Working for Accommodation in New Zealand?
Because accommodation is provided in connection with work (being an employee), that makes the value of the accommodation taxable. This applies to both the employer and employee.
The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) states that the worker and employer have to comply with the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) rules, which means the employer “must include details on their current employer schedule or employment information and pay the worker’s PAYE.” For more information on New Zealand’s PAYE tax system, see our guide to the New Zealand Work Tax System.
This means that even for WWOOFing, you will need an IRD number (tax number), complete a tax code declaration form at the start of your employment, and your employer must meet the obligations that require them to make payments such as ACC. This ensures that you are well-protected as an employee and have access to the New Zealand medical system. Read our article on ACC for more details.
There may be circumstances where accommodation is not taxable. On the other hand, workers hired as an independent contractor rather than an employee will need to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST). Head to the IRD’s Tax Implications for Working for Accommodation page for more information.
Can I Accept Cash Payment for My Extra Work on Top of Accommodation?
As long as it is declared properly, you can. If it is just cash under the table it is illegal and you and your employer can be taken to court. Any reward for your work must be properly declared and taxed under the New Zealand tax code and the same conditions above apply.
This is not a complicated process to abide by but it protects employees and employers countrywide.
Can I Accept Other Forms of Reward from My WWOOFing Host?
Let’s say that your employer knows the team at the nearby white rafting company and wants to shout you a free rafting trip. Can you accept it? Yes, you can. Should you accept it? Hell yeah! White water rafting is awesome!!!
The rules are: the reward should not be contingent on your work. If it is offered to you under a condition like “Do an extra five hours of work and get this trip”, then it is considered as a reward for work and will be seen and treated under the same tax rules above.
What if I Don’t Have a Work Contract with My WWOOFing Host?
You are then working illegally in New Zealand and this can have big consequences for you and your employer. There are sample contracts available for employers to use and most of them know the rules as those laws have been the same for years.
If you do not have a contract with an employer, under New Zealand law, you are entitled to a full wage with only 5% deduction for lodging and 15% deduction for board for your labour.
WWOOFing contracts are short and sweet and simply ensure a fair working environment for you, your employer and New Zealand as a whole. It is a very small price to pay for a huge reward, so do it right.