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Your pay

Minimum wages

Minimum wage rates for all workers who are 16 or older

Minimum Wage Act 1983, ss 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 8, 10; Minimum Wage Order 2020

All employees aged 16 or older have to be paid the minimum wage rate that applies in their case. The minimum wage rates are reviewed each year and usually adjusted.

If you’re 16 or older you’re entitled to the adult minimum wage, unless:

  • you’re a “starting-out” worker or a trainee worker, in which case the minimum wage is 80 percent of the adult minimum, or
  • you hold a minimum wage exemption permit issued by a labour inspector because you have a disability that affects your ability to do the job.

You can find out the current minimum wage rates at:
www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages/pay/minimum-wage/minimum-wage-rates

Lower minimums for “starting-out” and trainee workers

Minimum Wage Act 1983 s 4A; Minimum Wage Order 2020, cl 3, 5

If you’re a “starting-out” worker or a trainee worker, the minimum wage rate is usually 80% of the adult minimum rate.

You’re a starting-out worker if you’re in one of the following three categories:

  • you’re 16 or 17, and you’re yet to complete six months’ employment with your current employer
  • you’re 18 or 19 and you’ve been on a benefit for six months or more, and you’ve yet to complete six months’ employment with any single employer since you started getting the benefit, or
  • you’re 16, 17, 18 or 19, and you’re doing at least 40 credits a year of industry training as part of your employment agreement.

You’re a trainee worker if:

  • you’re 20 or older, and
  • you’re doing at least 60 credits a year of industry training as part of your employment agreement.

If you’re supervising or training other workers, however, you’re entitled to be paid the adult minimum wage – even if you’d otherwise be classed as a starting-out or trainee worker.

If your employer has been paying you below the minimum wage, contact a government labour inspector for help (see “Other resources” at the end of this chapter). You (or a labour inspector) can apply to the Employment Relations Authority for it to order your employer to pay you a monetary penalty for breaching your rights.

Minimum wage exemption permits for disabled people

Minimum Wage Act 1983, s 8

If you have a disability that significantly affects your job performance, a labour inspector can issue an exemption permit allowing your employer to pay you less than the minimum wage. The inspector must be satisfied that this 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. For more details, see the chapter “Disability rights”, under “Your pay and the minimum wage laws”.

(For information on how to contact labour inspectors, see “Other resources” at the end of this chapter.)

Special minimum wage rates for care and support workers

Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017

If you work in the care and support industry (for example, in a retirement village or rest home), you’re covered by specific minimum wage rates, which have been increasing each year from 2017 to 2021.

If you started working for your employer before 1 July 2017, your particular minimum rate will depend on your length of experience. If you started working for them on or after 1 July 2017, your minimum rate will depend on your qualifications. Employers also have to support their workers in getting qualifications.

You can find out about these special rates at: www.health.govt.nz/new-zealand-health-system/pay-equity-settlements/care-and-support-workers-pay-equity-settlement/pay-equity-settlement-information-employees

Those special rules for care and support workers are in the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017. That Act was passed to give effect to a 2017 negotiated settlement between unions, district health boards and the government after unions brought a pay equity claim in the Employment Court under the Equal Pay Act, which bans lower wage rates on the basis of gender. The basis for the claim was that the generally low wage rates in the care and support industry in fact violated the Equal Pay Act because most of the workers in that industry are women.

In between travel payment

Home and Community Support (Payment for Travel Between Clients) Settlement Act 2016, ss 17, 18

Special rates apply for your time spent travelling (called “in between travel”). This payment is only for home and community support workers who travel in between clients. Any dispute about payment is classed as an employment relationship problem and so can be taken to free mediation services or the Employment Relations Authority (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”).

Am I entitled to minimum wage for sleepover shifts?

Case: [2011] NZCA 14; Minimum Wage Act 1983, s 6

Whether you’re entitled to minimum wage on a sleepover shift depends on a number of factors. You’re more likely to be entitled to minimum wage if:

  • you have important or heavy responsibilities during the sleepover shift (for example, being ready to be woken if people in the building need you)
  • your work obligations seriously affect your freedom to do as you choose during the sleepover shift (for example, not being allowed to leave the workplace or to have visitors)
  • it’s important to your employer that you do the sleepover shift.

Workers who are simply on call overnight are not likely to be entitled to minimum wage.

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