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Getting paid, and getting records of your pay

Wages Protection Act 1983, ss 7-10

How and when should I be paid?

Your employer must pay you on your agreed pay day. This means the day of the week and the pay period (for example, fortnightly) that you agreed to when you started work. Your employer can’t change your normal pay day without your agreement.

Your wages should be paid in money. If you aren’t being paid in cash, both you and your employer have to agree on the method of payment in writing. In practice, this means that the method of payment should be set out in your employment agreement: for example, if you’re being paid by bank transfer.

Can my employer dock my pay?

Wages Protection Act 1983, ss 5, 5A

Your employer can only dock your pay (“deduct” from your pay):

  • if you’ve asked for or agreed to the deduction in writing, as part of your employment agreement or in a separate agreement, or
  • if the deduction is court ordered – for example, child support payments or court fines, or
  • in some cases when you’ve been overpaid (see below).

You might have a general “deductions clause” in your employment agreement – for example, one allowing your boss to dock your wages if you’ve damaged something at work, like plates if you work in a restaurant. However, they have to talk to you about it before they make any deductions under this clause. The deduction also can’t be unreasonable – for example, they can’t deduct money for loss or damage that was caused by someone else who you had no control over.

If you’ve previously agreed to a deductions clause in writing, and you’ve changed your mind about it, you can write to your employer to update or withdraw this agreement.

What happens if I’m overpaid?

Wages Protection Act 1983, s 6 Employment Relations Act ss 81, 82, 87 – 89

If your employer overpays you by mistake, they can usually recover the overpayment from you by:

  • making deductions from your future wages, or
  • getting you to pay the money back directly.

If you don’t agree to deductions, your employer can still recover the money, in the same way as other debts. You can try to argue that it would be unfair to require you to pay the overpayment back, because:

  • you’ve already spent the money in good faith, and
  • you didn’t know that the money was an overpayment, and
  • you didn’t contribute to the overpayment being made.

However, this can be hard to prove, and in practice, the ERA and the Employment Court usually decide that you’ll have to pay it back.

Meaning of “acting in good faith” after receiving an overpayment

Case: Foai v Air New Zealand

Acting in good faith means to act with honesty, openness, and without an ulterior purpose or motivation.

An example of when an employee was able to keep the overpayment was in Foai v Air New Zealand. The employee suspected there had been a mistake in his pay, and checked with his employer. The employer didn’t take any action or investigate the mistake. The Employment Court found that the employee had not acted dishonestly or in bad faith, and he was entitled to assume that he was being paid correctly. He relied on this overpayment and spent the money, so it would be unfair (“inequitable”) for him to have to pay it back.

Usually, your employer cannot make deductions from your wages unless you’ve agreed to this in writing. However, there are certain situations where they can deduct from your wages without your agreement if:

  • you have been absent from work without your employer’s authority, on strike, locked out (while in bargaining) or suspended from work, and
  • an overpayment has been made to you in, and
  • it was not reasonably practical for the employer to avoid this.

In these situations, the time you were absent is called a “recoverable period,” because your employer can take back or “recover” the wages paid to you from that time.

How do I get my wage and time records?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 4B, 130, 235B, 235E

Your employer has to keep time and wage records relating to your employment for six years. At any time during those six years, you (or someone representing you, like a lawyer, your union delegate or a labour inspector) can ask for these records.

These records should be detailed enough to prove your employer complied with the law regarding your minimum conditions, protections and entitlements. For example:

  • your wages were compliant with the Minimum Wage Act and the Wages Protection Act, and
  • you were given annual leave in compliance with the Holidays Act (see: “Annual leave”).

If your boss won’t give you these records, or they haven’t kept a copy of them for six years, they could be fined $1,000 by a labour inspector, or face penalties from the ERA.

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Online: communitylaw.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pregnancy-Manual_PDF-for-Web_2021.pdf
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

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

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Hours and wages: www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages
Leave and holidays: www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays
Workplace policies: www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah 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.

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

Labour inspectorate

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

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa/Worksafe New Zealand

Worksafe is New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator.  The website contains a range of information on workplace health and safety.

Phone: 0800 030 040
Notify Worksafe online: www.worksafe.govt.nz/notify-worksafe

Parental leave payments

For more information on parental leave see Inland Revenue’s website.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies. In the employment context, you can make a protected disclosure (known as whistle-blowing).

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602
Whistle-blowing/protected disclosure information: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/what-ombudsman-can-help/serious-wrongdoing-work-whistleblowing

To make a complaint online: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/get-help-public

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