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Public holidays

As well as their four weeks of annual leave, employees are entitled to 11 public holidays each year (if the public holidays fall on days they’d normally work). Staff who choose to work on public holidays are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half and get a day’s leave to take later.

Work out if you’re paying your employees properly and doing what’s expected.

What you need to know

When a public holiday falls on a day your employee would usually work, no matter how long they’ve been working for you they’re entitled to a paid day off.

You can only require an employee to work on a public holiday if it’s written into their employment agreement. If they agree to work, you must:

  • pay them at least time and a half and
  • give them another paid day off later (a day in lieu).

Public holiday dates (external link)  - Employment New Zealand

Public holiday entitlements (external link)  - Employment New Zealand

Easter Sunday is not a public holiday — if you’re trading, your employees will be paid their usual Sunday rate and no paid day off later.

Easter Sunday is not a public holiday — if you’re trading, your employees will be paid their usual Sunday rate and no paid day off later.

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, employees who don’t normally work then will have the following Monday as their paid public holiday. This is known as Mondayisation.

These public holidays can be moved to Monday (or in some cases Tuesday) if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday:

  • Waitangi Day — 6 February
  • Anzac Day — 25 April
  • Christmas Day — 25 December
  • Boxing Day — 26 December
  • New Years Day — 1 January
  • Day after New Years Day — 2 January

Mondayisation (external link) - Employment New Zealand

If your employees work weekends as well as Mondays, they don’t get both days as public holidays — they just get one.

If your employees work weekends as well as Mondays, they don’t get both days as public holidays — they just get one.

If public holidays fall inside your annual closedown period, you must pay employees for those that fall on days they’d usually work — including weekend public holidays moved to Monday or Tuesday.

casestudy JugglingHolidayRosters

Case study

Juggling holiday rosters

Calista and her husband Rob run a café near Te Papa in Wellington and employ extra weekend staff to cope with demand. 

Calista begins to worry when she realises Waitangi Day falls on a Saturday (for employees who don’t work weekends, this public holiday will be treated as falling on the following Monday). She feels she can’t afford to pay her regular Saturday employees time and a half, plus offer a day in lieu. But she knows it’s illegal to not roster regularly scheduled employees to avoid their holiday entitlements.

Calista calls a staff meeting to talk about the Waitangi Day roster. She doesn’t ask them to take the day off, but instead asks for thoughts or requests. Two of her regular Saturday employees ask for that day off – one to go to a Waitangi commemorative festival, the other because family will be visiting for the long weekend.

Calista changes the roster, and pays these two workers holiday pay for Waitangi Day. They’re happy to have the time off to mark the day, or to spend time with relatives, and Calista is relieved to have reduced her holiday weekend wage costs.

Days in lieu (alternative holidays)

Employees who are entitled to a day in lieu get a full day off, no matter how many hours they worked on the public holiday.

They don’t get a day in lieu if:

  • they wouldn't usually have worked that day
  • they only work on public holidays
  • they were on call but didn't have to do anything, and being on call didn't stop them doing what they wanted to do with their day.

If you can't agree on when your employee will take a day in lieu, you can choose a day for them – but you have to give them 14 days' notice. After 12 months, if they still haven’t taken the day off, you can agree with them to exchange the time off for an extra day's pay.

Alternative holidays (external link) - Employment New Zealand

Transferring public holidays

Any employee can ask to transfer a public holiday to another day.

You must:

  • consider the request seriously unless you have a policy that prevents transferring public holidays
  • put any agreement to transfer a public holiday in writing.

You can:

  • decline requests to transfer public holidays — it’s good to give a reason, although you’re not legally required to.

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