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What are the working holiday employment rights in NZ?

Whether the work you do in New Zealand is casual or otherwise and no matter what your work hours you have employment rights. These will be set down in an employment agreement between you and your employee and which, by law, must meet certain minimum standards. Included in this are guaranteed minimum hours of daily or weekly working hours in order to eliminate zero-hours practices. Trial periods are common in NZ but you will still have all the rights as detailed below during this period.

Your rights fall principally into five categories:

1. Public holiday pay rates – All workers are entitled to a paid day off on public holidays. If you are asked to work on these days and agree you should receive at least 1.5 times your normal pay AND be given another paid day off.

2. Sick leave – Workers are entitled to be paid for any days where they are sick and unable to work although they may be asked to produce a doctor's certificate. In order to qualify for sick leave entitlement you must have worked for the same employer for at least 6 months which means in many cases it won't be applicable to those on working holiday visas.

3. Rest and meal breaks – Workers by law are allowed breaks during their working day but as these are not legally defined with regard to length and frequency this is something you will need to ascertain at the outset and have included in your employment agreement. This can vary considerably depending on the type of work you are doing but an average is about half an hour for lunch and quarter of an hour breaks for every continuous four hours worked.

4. Minimum pay rates -You are entitled to receive a minimum pay rate per hour set out by New Zealand law and reviewed annually. Current pay rates can be found here. Even where piece-rate pay-scales are in place – such as in the fruit picking industry where many backpackers are employed – the minimum rate per hour still applies. It is worth noting however that it is unlikely you will keep a job in such cases if you consistently fall-short of a minimum quota.

5. Overtime entitlement If an employer requests work beyond your working hours as set out in your employment agreement and you agree you must receive compensation at an agreed rate.