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New Zealand Employment Rights for Working Holiday & Seasonal Workers

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Is Your Employment in New Zealand Fair?

So, you’ve got your work visa and you’re ready to experience life in New Zealand? Before you accept a job, or even before a serious job search for that matter, it’s important to know what are your employment rights when working in New Zealand. While most jobs in New Zealand follow the New Zealand employment laws that allow fair wages and working environments for employees, there is the occasional “bad egg” to avoid. By knowing what are your employment rights, you’ll know to only accept employment from fair employees.

Once you’ve wised up on your working in New Zealand rights, take a look at the paid positions listed on the NZ Pocket Guide Job Board.

A Quick Introduction to Working in New Zealand

If you have a relevant work visa, then working in New Zealand is an awesome way to fund your travels and stay longer in Aotearoa! There are many industries that travellers can get into and what’s more, migrant workers are commonplace here in New Zealand so being from overseas doesn’t usually hinder your ability to find a job (as long as you follow our tips on How to Quickly Find a Job in New Zealand).

Take a look at some of the popular jobs that people do when travelling New Zealand in the 15 Excellent Backpacker Jobs and 11 Jobs That Qualify to Extend Your Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.

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Do You Need a Visa to Work in New Zealand?

To work in New Zealand you will need a valid work visa. The most common visa people get while travelling is a Working Holiday Visa. However, there are many types of work visas for different situations or for skills that you can bring to New Zealand. Find out more on the Immigration New Zealand website.

For more information on the working holiday visa, see our complete bible to all things working holiday in The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa: Everything You Need to Know!

Can You Work on a Visitor Visa?

If you are in New Zealand on a Visitor Visa or the NZeTA, you cannot legally work for a wage or any type of reward like accommodation and food. See Visitor Visa: Do You Need a Visa to Visit New Zealand? and A Complete Guide to the New Zealand eTA & Visitor Levy (NZeTA & IVL) for more details.

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What are Your Rights When Working in New Zealand on a Working Holiday or as a Seasonal Worker?

New Zealand employment laws establish a few minimum employment rights for workers, which include employees on a Working Holiday Visa and seasonal workers.

Employment Trial Periods

Employers in New Zealand can voluntarily give employees a trial period of up to 90 days, only if it has been agreed in writing in the employment agreement (see the section below about employment agreements).

If you are dismissed during this period you can’t raise a personal grievance (official complaint) on the grounds that you think the dismissal was unjustified. You can, however, raise a personal grievance on other grounds, such as discrimination, harassment or unjustified action by the employer.

Minimum Wage in New Zealand

The minimum wage in New Zealand is reviewed every year, and you can view the current minimum wage on the  Employment New Zealand website run by the New Zealand Government. This is the minimum pay before tax. This also applies to “piece rates” which are the money paid to an employee per fruit picked or garments produced, for example. Even if you are paid by the piece, you should still not get paid less than the minimum wage. Learn more about piece rates in the context of fruit picking in our guide to the Apple Picking Season in New Zealand.

Rest and Meal Breaks at Work

You are entitled to rest and meal breaks on which you can rest and take care of personal matters. There are no specific rules about the length and time of breaks. The common practice in New Zealand is a 30-minute unpaid meal break and 10-15-minute paid rest breaks after every four hours worked, for example. These rest and meal break duration and frequency should be outlined in your employment agreement.

Holidays: Getting Paid When Taking Time Off Work

You get holiday pay of 8% of your gross earnings at the end of your employment, minus any holiday pay you received during your employment. A similar deal is given to those on a fixed-term agreement (seasonal work) and for irregular and intermittent work, where it may be agreed to add 8% holiday pay to the gross weekly earnings.

Public Holidays

You are entitled to the relevant or average daily pay on a public holiday if you would usually be working on that day. Some jobs will require you to work on a public holiday, in which case you should be paid at least time-and-a-half (1.5 times your hourly rate) for the time worked that day.

Sick Leave in New Zealand

Five days of sick pay is entitled only after six months of working for one employer. You will get paid the relevant or average daily pay for sick leave.

For a more in-depth look into these rights, see New Zealand Working Holiday Employment Rights.

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Do You Need a Contract to Work in New Zealand?

For any paid work in New Zealand, there must be a written form of an “employment agreement”. That way, you know what you are getting yourself in for and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

A number of minimum conditions will be outlined in the agreement, but even if they are not outlined, some conditions must still be met. These conditions are discussed in this article and in-depth on the Employment New Zealand website.

Employers must keep a copy of the agreement to which you are entitled to get copies on request.

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Do You Need to Pay Taxes?

When you are proposed a wage in New Zealand, keep in mind that the wage is usually before deductions, such as income tax. The tax deduction is known as PAYE (Pay As You Earn). How much you earn determines how much is deducted. You can find out more about that in New Zealand Work Tax System: Work and Pay Your Taxes!

Fill out the Tax Code Declaration (IR330) form given to you by your employer to make sure the correct tax deductions are made. You will need an IRD number for this (find out how to get an IRD Number in our guide, What is an IRD Number?)

A small portion of this deduction is the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) levy, which is an insurance system covering the costs if you are injured and off work for an extended period. You can learn more about what healthcare you are entitled to in New Zealand in A Traveller’s Guide to Healthcare in New Zealand.

The PAYE tax is required by law so the employer does not need your consent for these deductions, however, your written consent is needed for any other deductions made to your wage, such as for accommodation or food, for example.

Working for Other Forms of Payment or Reward in New Zealand

While receiving a wage in exchange for labour is pretty standard in New Zealand. There are other payment methods such as working for accommodation and food, for example. Follow our guides to your rights in the following job types for more information:

More About New Zealand Employment Rights for Working Holiday and Seasonal Workers

That’s it for our guide to the New Zealand employment rights for working holiday and seasonal workers, but it’s by no means the end of our advice! If you have more doubts, check out the guides below:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, then you’re likely to find it in The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa: Everything You Need to Know!


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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