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Communtity Law Manual | Disability rights | Your pay and the minimum wage laws

Employment: Access to jobs and protection against discrimination

Your pay and the minimum wage laws

If you’re 16 or older you’re entitled to the relevant minimum wage, unless a labour inspector has issued an exemption permit because you have an impairment that significantly affects your ability to do the job. The exemption permit allows your employer to pay you less than the minimum wage.

Minimum wage exemptions for workers with “significant” impairments

Minimum Wage Act 1983, s 8

Before a labour inspector will issue an exemption for you to be paid below minimum wage, the inspector has to be satisfied that the arrangement is reasonable and appropriate. Your wage rate will be stated in the exemption permit, and the rate must relate to your ability to do the job.

Employment New Zealand, the government agency that labour inspectors work for, gives some guidance about how their inspectors will approach the decision whether to grant an exemption, which we summarise here:

  • They won’t issue an exemption if they think you should be paid the relevant minimum wage, or if the pay rate offered isn’t fair, or if you’re not happy with the rate.
  • You and the employer should negotiate the pay rate between you, and when you’re discussing this you should consider how you could earn a higher rate of pay than the one that’s proposed – for example, by the employer matching your job tasks more closely to your abilities, or giving you more training or support, or making changes to the workplace (to the physical set-up or to how the work is done), or offering you flexible hours.
  • The inspector will want to check you’ve been given the chance to have an independent representative or a support person or advocate when you’re negotiating.
  • The rate you’ve negotiated should be consistent with other comparable exemption permits for disabled people, and you must get all the other minimum standards like holidays.

You can read Employment New Zealand’s information on this topic at

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