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Glossary of terms

Terms and definitions listed alphabetically.


If you work on a public holiday that is a normal working day, you are entitled to an alternative holiday. An alternative holiday compensates you for having to work on a public holiday. These are sometimes referred to as "a day in lieu".

Usually refers to how much paid time off work you can have in a year. The law provides for four weeks paid annual holidays per year.

A daily average of the employee’s gross earnings over the past 52 weeks. This is calculated by adding up the employee’s gross earnings for the period and dividing this by the number of whole or part days the employee either worked or was on paid leave or holiday during that period.

1 out of 52 of an employee’s total earnings. 


Means paid time off work when someone close to you dies. Under the law you get three days paid bereavement leave when a close relative or family member dies, otherwise you can get one day paid bereavement leave if your employer agrees.


A collective agreement is an employment agreement that is negotiated by a union that covers a group of employees.

Casual work can sometimes be tricky. Usually it is working only as and when the employer tells you to work. This means you will not always have work available, but the employer may call you if they need to. This can sometimes happen because it is hard for the employer to predict when that work needs to be done, or when the work needs to be done quite quickly. If you are employed to do casual work, this must be made clear in your employment agreement.


When you finish work to have a baby.

Your employer cannot deduct (take away) money from your wages, without your agreement in writing. The law protects the employee's right to receive wages from their employer without unauthorised deductions. The common exception to this are the levies the employer is required to deduct by law, such as tax and ACC.

The decision of a Member of the Employment Relations Authority regarding a case. 


Employment advocates are not lawyers but may fulfil a similar role to lawyers in terms of preparing cases and representing parties in the Employment Relations Authority or Employment Court. They are not bound by the same rules of conduct and client care that lawyers are. They may or may not have legal training.

A legal document that is a written record of all the things you have agreed to as part of your job. Your employer must give you a written employment agreement by law. This is sometimes incorrectly referred to as an employment contract.

Any problem in an employment relationship, including disputes and personal grievances, can be an employment relationship problem. There can be many employment relationships, for example, between an employer and employee, employees, manager and employee, a union and its members, a union and an employer, or different unions covering employees in the same workplace.

Usually refers to what you are entitled to as part of your employment agreement and your minimum rights by law. Your minimum rights given to you by law are things like sick leave, bereavement leave, minimum wage and annual holidays.

Employment Relations Authority


This refers to employment which starts and finishes at a particular time. There are special rules for being employed on a fixed term agreement. You can only be employed on a fixed term if there is a genuine reason (like filling in for a permanent employee, seasonal work like fruit picking, or until a project is completed). Your employer must also tell you how and when the employment will end, before you start the job.

Usually means you work around 40 hours per week.


Things that you cannot touch that are created by people and used in business.


A labour inspector enforces what is called the "minimum code" or the minimum rights you have under the law. They can investigate cases where an employer does not provide these minimum rights. For example if they pay you less than the minimum wage per hour.


Mediation is a process in which people, with the assistance of a mediator, talk about the issues and reach agreements that will best suit them. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides free mediation services to help people resolve their employment relations problems quickly and effectively.

This refers to the least you can get paid by law. There is no minimum wage for employees younger than 16.


Pay includes everything an employee is normally paid weekly, including:

  • regular allowances, such as a shift allowance
  • regular productivity or incentive-based payments (including commission or piece rates)
  • the cash value of board or lodgings
  • regular overtime.

Intermittent or one-off payments as well as discretionary payments and employer contributions to superannuation schemes are not included in ordinary weekly pay. 

When ordinary weekly pay isn’t clear, it can be worked out by:

  1. going to the end of the last pay period, then
  2. from that date, going back 4 weeks (or if the pay period is longer than 4 weeks, go back the number of weeks in the pay period), and
  3. taking the gross earnings for that period (a), and
  4.  deducting from the gross earnings any payments that are irregular or that the employer is not bound to pay (b), and
  5.  dividing the answer by 4 (c).

a − b


Working out what would be an “otherwise working day” is key to working out what you should get for working on a public holiday. Ask yourself “would I have normally worked on that day?” 

  • If the answer is “Yes” And you do not work, you are entitled to be paid out for the public holiday”.
  • If the answer is “Yes” And you work on the public holiday you are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half and be provided an alternative holiday (sometimes called a “day in lieu”).
  • If the answer is “No” And you work the public holiday you are entitled to be paid “time-and-a-half”, but not to an alternative holiday.
  • If the answer is “No” and you do not work, you are not entitled to be paid out for the public holiday.  


Usually means you work less than 40 hour per week, like 15 or 20. As a part-time employee you have the same rights as a full-time employee.

In some cases if you are employed on a fixed term (such as doing a seasonal job), or if you work casual hours where it is not practical for the employer to provide you with four weeks annual holidays, the employer may provide you with 8% of your gross (before tax is taken out) earnings instead of annual holidays. This is paid to you together with your normal wages.

An identifiable additional amount that is payable to compensate the employee for working on a particular day or type of day.

If your employer decides that your job is a key position, or there is a redundancy situation and your job won’t be kept open for you, you’ll go into a 26 week 'period of preference' at the end of your parental leave. This means that at any time during this 26 week period, if your employer has a job that is really similar to your job, your employer must offer it to you first before offering it to anyone else. 

A personal grievance is a specific type of employment relationship problem as defined in law.  There are specific reasons for which you can raise a personal grievance, such as unjustified dismissal, harassment or discrimination. If you think you have suffered a personal grievance, you need to let your employer know within 90 days of it happening, or you finding out about it.

Probation periods are different to trial periods. During the probation period your employer still needs to follow a fair disciplinary or dismissal procedure. If you have been working on a probation period you may raise a personal grievance on the grounds of unjustified dismissal, if you think the employer did not have good reason to dismiss you.

We have 11 paid public holidays every year (New Years Day, January 2nd, Provincial Anniversary Day, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, Queen's Birthday, Labour Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day). The Christmas and New Year holidays (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and January 2nd) can carry over to the Monday or Tuesday after the holiday if they happen on a weekend and you don't normally work weekends.


Relevant daily pay means paying an employee what they would have earned if they were at work on the day. This also:

  • Includes payments such as commission, bonuses if the employee would have received them on the day in question, and
  • Includes overtime, if the employee would have received them on the day in question, and
  • includes the cash value of board or lodgings if this has been provided by the employer, but
  • excludes any employer contribution payment in to an employee superannuation fund. 


A seasonal job is usually a type of fixed term agreement where the employer needs some extra workers for a certain job that comes up every 'season', like for example to pick apples when they ripen. After the work is completed (for example, when all the apples are picked) the employer does not need the workers and the fixed term ends.

Means paid time off work when you are sick or injured and can't work. Under the law you get five days sick leave after being with an employer for six months, and an additional five days from that point on for every year of employment.

Starting-out workers are:

  • 16 and 17-year-old employees who have not yet completed six months of continuous employment with their current employer.
  • 18 and 19-year-old employees who have been paid a specified social security benefit for six months or more, and who have not yet completed six months continuous employment with any employer since they started being paid a benefit. Once they have completed six months continuous employment with a single employer, they will no longer be a starting-out worker, and must be paid at least the adult minimum wage rate.
  • 16 to 19-year-old employees who are required by their employment agreement to undertake industry training for at least 40 credits a year in order to become qualified for the occupation to which their employment agreement relates.

Different types of minimum wage rates has information on the three different types of minimum wage.


If employees work on a public holiday (unless they only work on public holidays) they are entitled to be paid "time-and-a-half". This means that your standard hourly rate is multiplied by 1.5. For example, if you are normally paid $15 per hour, you would be paid $22.50 per hour (15 x 1.5 =22.50) for working on a public holiday

An employer may employ someone on a trial period of up to 90 calendar days. During the trial period the employer can give the employee notice that they are dismissed from the job. If they do so, the employee can't take a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.


A union is an organisation which supports employees in the workplace by acting as an advocate for them and standing up for worker's rights. They often act as a middle person between employers and employees. Unions bargain for better conditions in collective agreements and help employees with work related issues. People pay a fee to become a member of a union.

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