The minimum hourly wage was NZ$15.75 ($11.45). The “training minimum wage” and the “starting-out” wage for 16- to 19-year-old workers and new workers 20 years or older was NZ$12.60 ($9.16). There was no official poverty-level income figure, but researchers frequently used 60 percent of the median household income, NZ$57,300 ($41,700), as the unofficial poverty-level marker.
The law provides that 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.
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 revoked licenses of offenders.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment enforces laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, and occupational health and safety, the latter of which WorkSafe New Zealand is responsible for under the law. 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 the occupational health and safety law and the wages and hours law carry either monetary penalties or imprisonment. The law stipulates penalties for employers who exploit migrant workers, including imprisonment, a fine, and deportation for noncitizen residents.
In 2016 the country saw 59 workplace-related fatalities. Agriculture is the country’s most dangerous sector, with 20 persons killed while engaged in agricultural work. The majority of workplace assessments carried out by WorkSafe New Zealand’s health and safety inspectors in 2016 targeted high-risk industries such as agriculture, forestry, construction, and manufacturing. WorkSafe New Zealand reported that 75 percent of surveyed employers had changed their workplace practices following its inspections. During 2016 WorkSafe New Zealand initiated 98 prosecutions following those inspections, and 91 percent of those prosecutions were successful.