NZ Leave and Holiday Entitlements: Everything you need to know

Published 14 November 2023 | 2 min read

A summary of minimum leave and holiday entitlements for employees.

Managing leave and holiday entitlements can often resemble a challenging hike through the Remarkables. In the complex landscape of New Zealand's employment law, understanding and implementing the minimum leave and holiday entitlements outlined in the Holidays Act 2003 is crucial.

When it comes to annual staff leave and public holidays, employers should be aware of their responsibilities.

Here’s a summary of minimum leave and holiday entitlements for employees.

Annual leave

  • All employees, regardless of their classification (i.e. part time, full time, fixed term, and ‘casual’) are entitled to at least four weeks’ of paid annual leave

  • Annual leave is accrued after 12 months of continuous employment with an employer or after six months for an average of 10 hours per week, and at least one hour in every week, or 40 hours in every month

  • Some employers may agree with their employees that they can take annual leave as they accrue it or in advance

Calculating leave

Calculating leave is a complex area. More businesses/organisations are being caught out for failing to comply with the Holidays Act 2003 as a result of incorrect leave and pay.

The Holidays Act 2003 outlines specific minimum entitlements to holidays and leave (e.g. annual leave, public holidays, sick leave) as well as the payments for them.

We highly recommend talking to your payroll provider to ensure leave is calculated correctly for all employees.

Click here to view the Government’s advice around calculating payments for holidays and leave for your employees.

Public holidays and close-down periods

Did you know, if you're an employer that requires workplace shutdown periods during the year, such as Christmas, you cannot force employees to take unpaid leave?

In addition to annual leave, employees are entitled to up to 11 public holidays each year if they are days they would otherwise work.

These days, marked by national, religious, or cultural significance, are meant for rest and reflection. And remember, if your team works on a public holiday, they deserve that time and a half.

Check out our article covering New Zealand's Christmas holidays and leave + commonly asked questions.

Click here to view the official NZ public holidays for 2023.

Employment agreement: Informing an employee of leave entitlements

When crafting employment agreements, it's vital to inform employees about their leave entitlements under the Holidays Act 2003. This friendly reminder can be easily included in the agreement itself, making it a breeze for both parties to stay in the loop.

When entering into an employment agreement, employers must inform the employee of the following:

  • Annual leave entitlements under the Holidays Act 2003
  • Annual close-down periods, if there are any (at least 14 days before)
  • Sick leave (at least 5 paid days off a year)
  • Bereavement leave (at least 3 days paid leave)
  • Domestic violence leave
  • Parental leave

Preparing for annual leave

Ah, the anticipation of annual leave! Employers should anticipate their busiest periods and take preventative steps to minimise disruption.

Knowing when and how long your people are on leave is the first step to arranging suitable cover and preventing downtime in the business or organisation. Annual leave requests should be submitted and recorded to ensure correct leave and pay. It also prevents misunderstandings down the line.

Payroll systems are becoming more popular with businesses to simplify record-keeping and straightforward maintenance.

Ensure tasks are delegated and responsibilities are clear. This not only ensures a stress-free holiday for your employee but also a smooth sailing ship in their absence.

What next?

Whether it's clarifying employment agreements, calculating leave entitlements, or preparing for upcoming close-down periods, being well-informed and proactive is the key.

Our friendly HR & employment experts are just an email or a phone call away. 

Email us at, or call us on 03 366 4034 for professional, one-on-one guidance.

This article is not intended as legal advice but is intended to alert employers to relevant topics of interest and how to be prepared.

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