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Communtity Law Manual | Employment: Conditions & protections | Public holidays (“Statutory” holidays like Xmas Day)

Holidays and annual leave

Public holidays (“Statutory” holidays like Xmas Day)

What public holidays am I entitled to?

Holidays Act 2003, ss 46, 44

You’re entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday if this would otherwise be a working day for you. There are 11 paid public holidays in a year (these are sometimes called “statutory” holidays). These are:

  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • New Year’s Day
  • 2 January
  • Waitangi Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • ANZAC Day
  • Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June)
  • Labour Day (fourth Monday in October)
  • The local anniversary day.

Transferring a public holiday to a different date

Holidays Act 2003, s 44A

If you start work on one day and finish on another (if you work a night shift, for example), and one or both of those days is a public holiday, you and your employer can agree to transfer the public holiday to another 24-hour period that starts or ends on the public holiday and covers your entire work shift. The agreement must be in writing and it can’t reduce the number of paid public holidays that would otherwise be available to you in any given year.

You and your employer can agree that in your case a particular public holiday will be transferred to a different date. However, this must not reduce the total number of paid public holidays that you’re otherwise entitled to in any year.

Holidays Act 2003, s 44B

The following conditions must be met for the transfer to be valid:

  • The transfer must be in writing.
  • The public holiday and the date to which it’s being transferred must both be identified.
  • The public holiday being transferred must otherwise be a working day for you.
  • The day to which the holiday is being transferred must otherwise be a working day for you and must not be another public holiday.

The purpose of the transfer can’t be to stop you being entitled to time and a half for working on public holidays. However, the law says it’s allowable for the transfer to have that effect, so long as this wasn’t the reason for it.

Example

An employee works from 10 pm on 24 April to 6 am on Anzac Day and from 10 pm on Anzac Day to 6 am on 26 April.

The employer and employee can agree to treat 10 pm to midnight on Anzac Day as not part of a public holiday in exchange for treating a period of 24 hours that finishes on Anzac Day as a public holiday. Both parties will agree on when the 24-hour period starts and finishes. For instance, they could agree that it runs from midday on 24 April to midday on Anzac Day.

What if a public holiday falls on a weekend?

Holidays Act 2003, s 45

Special arrangements apply to the four public holidays over the Christmas and New Year period (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and 2 January). If one of those holidays falls on a weekend, and you don’t normally work on the weekend, the holiday is transferred to the following Monday or Tuesday.

If the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday and you do normally work on that day, the holiday is observed on that day and you’re entitled to have that day off on pay.

If Waitangi Day (6 February) or ANZAC Day (25 April) falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then those holidays are “Monday-ised”, so that if you don’t usually work on that day the holiday is transferred to the following Monday. If you do usually work on that weekend day, then the holiday is treated as falling on that day. This issue doesn’t arise for the remaining public holidays, as they always fall on a Friday (Good Friday) or on a Monday (Easter Monday, Queen’s Birthday, Labour Day and local anniversary days).

Note: If you don’t normally work on those days, you don’t get a paid holiday.

Can I be made to work on a public holiday?

Holidays Act 2003, s 47

You can be required to work on a public holiday if it falls on a day that you would normally work, and your employment agreement requires you to work the public holiday.

Am I entitled to any benefits if I work on a public holiday?

Holidays Act 2003, ss 50, 56, 57, 60, 61

If you’re required to work on a public holiday you must be given an alternative paid day off in the place of the public holiday worked, and you must also be paid at least time and a half for the time you actually worked.

When you will take the alternative paid day off will be agreed between you and your employer. If you can’t agree, your employer can require you to take the alternative holiday on a particular day, so long as the day is reasonable and you’re given 14 days’ notice.

If 12 months have passed since the public holiday you worked, you can ask to have the alternative holiday paid out. If your employer agrees to this, they must pay you the agreed amount as soon as practicable.

What happens if I’m on call on a public holiday?

Holidays Act 2003, s 59

What you are paid if you’re on call on a public holiday depends on whether it’s your usual working day, whether you are actually called out to work, and whether you have to limit what you do while you’re on call:

  • If you’re called out, you’ll get at least time and a half for the time worked (plus a full day’s paid alternative holiday if it’s your usual working day).
  • If you’re not called out, but you have to limit your activities that day so that you don’t enjoy a full holiday (for example, you can’t drink or you have to stay at home), you’re entitled to a full day’s paid alternative holiday (if it’s your usual working day).
  • If you’re on call but you don’t have to limit your activities, you’ll get an alternative holiday only if you’re called out and it’s your usual working day (plus you get time and a half for any time worked).
  • If you’re on call, but you’re not called out and it’s your usual working day, you’ll get normal pay for the public holiday.

Those rules don’t apply to someone who’s employed to be on call only on public holidays.

Your employment agreement might also include an on-call allowance negotiated with your employer.

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