The minimum hourly wage was 15.25 New Zealand dollars ($10.75). The “training minimum wage” for persons who are age 20 or over and the “starting-out” wage for 16- to 19-year-old workers is 12.20 New Zealand dollars ($8.60) 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 ($18,500)), 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 this is negotiable 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. This benefit does not apply to those working in the armed forces.
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 an employer penalized them as a result.
The government proactively investigated labor conditions and in cases of noncompliance with labor law inspectors 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 in all sectors including the informal economy, 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 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($350,000) or imprisonment of up to two years. The Immigration Amendment Act 2015 stipulates penalties for employers who exploit migrant workers, including a jail term of up to seven years, a fine up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars ($70,500), and deportation for noncitizen residents.
As of September, WorkSafe New Zealand employed 180 assessment, investigations, and response inspectors, including four chief inspectors and 16 inspectors in the High Hazards Unit. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. WorkSafe New Zealand reported that 83 percent of surveyed employers had changed their workplace practices following its inspections. From 2014 to December 2015, WorkSafe New Zealand initiated 106 prosecutions following those inspections, and 91 percent of those prosecutions were successful.
Workers ages 15 to 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.