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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
  • As of June 2022 Matariki will also be recognised as a public holiday.

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.

Transferring a public holiday 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.

Sick leave and other short-term leave

Increasing the minimum sick leave entitlements

    From 24 July 2021, minimum sick leave entitlements will increase from five days to 10. These new entitlements are set out in the Holidays Act 2003.

What sick leave am I entitled to?

Holidays Act 2003, ss 63, 65

As of 24 July 2021, you will be entitled to at least ten days of paid sick leave once you have worked for the same employer for six months, this includes:

  • if you have worked continuously as well as if you have worked on average of at least 10 hours per week, and
  • at least one hour in every week or 40 hours a month.

If you are an existing employee you would first become entitled to ten days’ sick leave on your next “entitlement date”. This is based on your work anniversary date. For example, if at 24 July 2021 you have worked for your employer for 10 months, your next “entitlement date” will be in September when you have worked for your employer for 12 months.

In what situations can I take sick leave?

Holidays Act 2003, ss 63, 65

You can take sick leave if:

  • you’re sick or injured, or
  • your spouse or partner is sick or injured, or
  • a person who depends on you for care is sick or injured (like your child or an elderly relative).

    Note: Your employer can agree to you taking sick leave before you become entitled to it, and those days will then be deducted from your sick leave entitlement.

Do I have to tell my employer if I take sick leave?

Holidays Act 2003, s 64

If you are going to take sick leave you must tell your employer as soon as possible – for example, before you were supposed to start work or, if that’s not practicable, as soon as possible after that.

Can I accumulate my sick leave?

Holidays Act 2003, s 66

Yes. As of 24 July 2021you have the right to carry over up to 10 days’ sick leave from one year to the next, which means you canaccumulate your unused sick leave up to a maximum of 20 days in any particular year. This is a minimum right, and your employment agreement may give you a more generous sick leave entitlement or allow you to accumulate more than 20 days.

Holidays Act 2003, s 67

No. You’re not entitled to be paid out for any sick leave that you don’t take before your job ends.

Can my employer require me to provide a medical certificate?

Holidays Act 2003, s 68

Your employer can require you to provide proof that you were sick or injured if the sickness or injury lasts for three or more calendar days in a row, including weekends and any other days that aren’t usually working days for you. This means they can require proof if, for example, you’re off sick on a Friday and then also the following Monday.

As proof you can provide a certificate from a doctor or nurse, or from another type of registered health professional as appropriate, like a physiotherapist if it’s an injury.

If the sickness or injury lasts for less than three days, your employer can only require you to provide proof if they pay for the reasonable cost of getting the proof – like the cost of going to your GP. Your employer must also tell you as early as possible that they want you to provide the proof.

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

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Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on:

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa


Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments


The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)


Free phone: 0800 802 602
Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

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