The minimum hourly wage is NZ$14.25 ($11.27). The “training minimum wage” for those age 20 or over, and the “starting-out” wage for 16- to 19-year-old workers, is NZ$11.40 ($9.02) for nonsupervisory workers with fewer than three months or 200 hours of employment. There was no official poverty-level income figure, but researchers frequently used 60 percent of the median household income, (NZ$26,300 ($20,805)), as the unofficial poverty-level marker.
The law provides work hours should be set in collective or individual agreements between employers and employees, and although a 40-hour workweek is traditional, employer and employee parties may contractually agree to a workweek of more than 40 hours. There are no legal provisions regarding overtime pay rates, but they may be negotiated between the employer and employee. In the absence of a negotiated agreement on overtime, employers may request, but may not require employees to work overtime hours.
The law does not provide specifically for a 24-hour rest period weekly; however, management and labor have accepted the practice, and it was the norm for most industries. The law provides for 11 paid public holidays and a minimum four-week annual paid vacation. Employees who work on a paid holiday are entitled to time and a half for that day and a day off with pay on another date. The armed forces are excepted from this benefit.
By law employees are accorded one paid 10-minute rest break during a two- to four-hour work period, one paid 10-minute rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break during a four- to six-hour work period, and two paid 10-minute rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break during a six- to eight-hour shift.
Extensive laws and regulations govern health and safety issues. Employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work environment, and employees are responsible for their own safety and health, as well as ensuring that their actions do not harm others. The government mandates employers to provide health insurance for their seasonal workers. The law allows workers to refuse to perform work likely to cause serious harm and permits legal recourse if they believed they had been penalized as a result.
The government proactively investigated labor conditions and in cases of noncompliance with labor law levied fines, required restitution of wages to workers, and pulled licenses from offenders.
The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment is responsible for enforcing laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, and occupational safety and health. The department’s inspectors effectively enforced safety and health rules, and they have the power to shut down equipment if necessary. The department normally investigated reports of unsafe or unhealthy working conditions within 24 hours of notification. Convictions for violations of these laws carry penalties of up to NZ$500,000 ($400,000) or imprisonment of up to two years.
As of October 2014, WorkSafe NZ, the stand-alone workplace safety and health regulatory agency created in December 2013, employed 145 assessment, investigations, and response inspectors; four chief inspectors, and 18 inspectors in the High Hazards Unit. This was a 45 percent increase from 2013.
During the year legislation was enacted requiring all vessels operating in territorial waters to adhere to the country’s labor laws from May 1, 2016. This followed government establishment of a panel of inquiry in 2011 to evaluate the country’s fishing industry in response to allegations by unions, Maori groups, and human rights organizations, among others, of labor abuses on foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
In 2013, 55 persons were reported killed in the line of work, compared with 46 confirmed fatalities in 2012, and 182,900 claims were made to the Accident Compensation Corporation for a work-related injury, up from 180,000 provisional claims in 2012. Workers ages 15-24 years and 65 years and over had the highest claim rates across all age groups. The fishing and forestry industries had the highest number of entitlement (i.e., more serious) claims as a proportion of all claims within the industry, both with 18 percent of claims involving entitlement payments.