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Paying your employees for leave

Paying your employees for leave

Working out what you need to pay employees when they’re taking leave can be complicated — but with the right systems and processes in place, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Temporary changes to parental leave law

There have been temporary changes to the parental leave law in response to COVID-19. These changes will allow workers on parental leave to temporarily go back to work without losing their entitlements. Employment New Zealand has more information on this.

Temporary changes to parental leave law due to COVID-19(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Paid leave — your employees’ entitlements

All employees are entitled to paid days off for:

  • annual leave
  • public holidays
  • sick leave
  • family violence leave
  • bereavement leave
  • parental leave.

Holidays and leave entitlements


Payment for annual leave

Annual leave is calculated differently to all other types of leave. When an employee is on annual leave, you must pay them:

  • their ordinary weekly pay at the time of the leave, or
  • their average weekly earnings over the 12 months before the holiday is taken.

You must pay them whichever amount is higher.

Calculating leave payments(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Payment for other leave types and public holidays

For all leave other than annual leave, you must pay your employees either:

  • their relevant daily pay — the amount they would have earned if they’d worked that day, including
    • productivity or incentive payments, including commission or piece rates
    • overtime payments, and
    • the cash value of board and lodgings provided, or
  • their average daily pay — this is their gross earnings over the last 52 weeks, divided by the number of whole or part days they either worked or were on paid leave in that period.

You should always try to use the relevant daily pay, unless:

  • it’s not possible to work out relevant daily pay, or
  • an employee’s daily pay varies in the pay period in question.

Employment New Zealand has a calculator to help you work out whether you need to pay relevant daily pay or average daily pay(external link).

Pay-as-you-go annual leave

Instead of four weeks’ annual leave, you can pay your employees on a pay-as-you-go basis at a minimum rate of 8% of their gross earnings if:

  • the employee is on a genuine fixed-term agreement of less than 12 months, or
  • the employee works so irregularly that it’s impractical to provide them with four weeks’ annual holidays.

Annual leave for casual staff(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Getting it right


Calculating holiday pay correctly is straightforward when you’ve got the right systems in place. A good system needs:

  • accurate, up-to-date time and wage records
  • the correct calculations, using the right data.

Use the Employment New Zealand calculator(external link) to work out what an employee’s average daily pay should be.

If you feel unsure

If you feel unsure about what you’re doing, it’s worth getting guidance from a payroll specialist who can help you set up a good system.

Public holidays have varying rules — make sure you understand how they work and what your employees are entitled to.

Introduction to holidays and leave

Common mistakes

Common mistakes

To get holiday pay calculations right, don’t fall into these common traps:

  • not keeping your personnel files updated and using incorrect data to calculate leave payments
  • on public holidays, rostering off staff who would normally work, and not paying them (you have to pay any employee who would normally work on a public holiday)
  • setting employees up as ‘casual staff’ even if their hours aren’t casual, so that you can pay them 8% extra in each pay instead of giving them annual leave
  • not fully understanding ‘Mondayisation’ of public holidays, and paying employees incorrectly.

In general, if you’re keeping your time and wage records up to date and entering the right data, your calculations should be correct. If your employees work standard hours, their leave payments should be standard, too. If they work irregular hours, their leave payments should fluctuate.

Mondayisation(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Personnel files

If you have more questions about holidays and leave:

If you have more questions about holidays and leave:

See Employment NZ's contact us page.

Contact us(external link) — Employment New Zealand


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