The minimum hourly wage was NZ$14.75 ($9.85). The “training minimum wage” for those age 20 or over, and the “starting-out” wage for 16- to 19-year-old workers, is NZ$11.80 ($7.88) 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 ($17,556)), as the unofficial poverty-level marker.
The law provides work hours should be set in collective or individual agreements between employers and employees. 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.
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 were 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 Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment is responsible for enforcing laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, and occupational health and safety, the latter of which is handled by WorkSafe New Zealand. 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 occupational health and safety and wages and hours laws carry penalties of up to NZ$500,000 ($400,000) or imprisonment of up to two years. On May 6, the government enacted the Immigration Amendment Act 2015, which introduced stricter penalties for employers who exploit migrant workers, including a jail term of up to seven years, a fine up to NZ$100,000 (US$65,000), and deportation for non-citizen residents.
As of October WorkSafe New Zealand employed 153 assessment, investigations, and response inspectors, including four chief inspectors, and 16 inspectors in the High Hazards Unit. WorkSafe New Zealand reported that 77 percent of surveyed employers had changed their workplace practices following its inspections. From 2013 to December 2015, WorkSafe New Zealand initiated 110 prosecutions following those inspections.
Workers ages 15-24 years and 65 years and over had the highest claim rates for work related injuries 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.