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Pay for public holidays, sick and bereavement leave and alternative holidays

Payment is calculated using relevant daily pay or average daily pay.

Employees may be entitled to paid days off on public holidays, if they are sick or have suffered a bereavement, and when they take alternative holidays, if the day is a day they would have otherwise worked. Payment is determined using either relevant daily pay (RDP) or average daily pay (ADP).

For working on a public holiday employees must be paid at least time and a half and this provision must be included in employment agreements.

When payments must be made

An employer must pay an employee:

  • for a public holiday in the pay that relates to the pay period in which the holiday falls
  • for an alternative holiday which is taken, in the pay that relates to the pay period in which the alternative holiday is taken
  • for sick leave or bereavement leave, in the pay that relates to the pay period in which the leave is taken (except if proof of sickness or injury is required and the employee has not provided this without reasonable excuse, then the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee for the sick leave until proof is provided.

Payment for unworked public holidays, alternative holidays, sick and bereavement leave

For unworked public holidays, alternative holidays, sick and bereavement leave employees are paid at the rate of relevant daily pay except in two specific circumstances where an employer may choose to use average daily pay.

Employers may use average daily pay (‘ADP’) only if:

  • it’s not possible or practicable to calculate the employee’s relevant daily pay, or
  • the employee’s daily pay varies in the pay period where the holiday or leave falls.

This means that if the employee’s daily pay varies in the pay period they have a choice of using RDP or ADP.

Estimating ADP or using ADP instead of RDP in a situation where there is no choice will not comply with the Holidays Act 2003 and may lead to an employee’s pay being incorrect.

For information on using RDP and ADP, see Relevant daily pay and average daily pay.

Annual holidays are calculated differently.

Public holidays

For public holiday rights, there are a number of things to work out:

  • on which day the public holiday will be observed for each employee, if it’s a public holiday that might be Mondayised (or Tuesdayised)
  • whether or not the day is an otherwise working day for the employee
  • whether or not the employee will be working on the day
  • how much the employee will be paid for the day
  • whether the employee is entitled to an alternative holiday

Payment for working on a public holiday

For working on a public holiday (regardless of whether it’s an otherwise working day for the employee), all employees must be paid (at least) the greater of:

  • the employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay (if applicable) for the time actually worked on the day (not including any penal rates in the employment agreement that relate to that day) plus half that amount again (time and a half), or
  • the employee’s relevant daily pay (or average daily pay) that relates to the time actually worked on the day (including any penal rates in the employment agreement). The employee isn’t entitled to time and a half on top of the penal rate.

Read more about relevant daily pay and average daily pay. If an employer estimates instead of doing the calculations, it may lead to payment being worked out incorrectly.

Working on a public holiday that is an otherwise working day

If an employee works on a public holiday and it is an otherwise working day for them (and they are not only employed to work on public holidays) they also get an alternative holiday. If an employee works only on public holidays (eg an employee is only employed to work at the racetrack for the Waitangi Day meeting) they don’t get an alternative holiday, but must still be paid at least time and a half for the hours they work on a public holiday.

Working out public holiday entitlements

You can use our table to work out public holiday entitlements. Before you use this table, use our Mondayisation of public holidays flowchart to determine which day the public holiday will be observed for the employee.

Public holiday entitlements table The day is an otherwise working day for the employee The day isn't an otherwise working day for the employee
The employee works on the public holiday (including if the employee is on call and is called out)

The employee gets:

  • paid at least time and a half for the time worked on the day
  • paid their on call allowance (if applicable and on call)

a full day’s alternative holiday (unless the employee is only employed to work on public holidays).

The employee gets

  • paid at least time and a half for the time worked on the day
  • paid their on call allowance (if applicable and on call).
The employee doesn’t work on the public holiday

The employee gets:

  • paid relevant daily pay or average daily pay (if applicable) and the day off.

The employee:

  • doesn’t receive anything for the day.
The employee is on call on the day but doesn’t get called out (ie doesn’t work on the public holiday)

The employee gets:

  • paid relevant daily pay or average daily pay (if applicable) for the day
  • their on call allowance if applicable
  • an alternative holiday if they have had to restrict their activities to the extent that they didn’t get a day off.

The employee gets:

  • their on call allowance (if applicable).

If you can’t work out or agree what an employee’s pay for a public holiday should be, contact us for help.

Public holiday scenarios

Working on Easter Sunday (not a public holiday)

If an employee works on Easter Sunday, they would generally be paid their ordinary rate of pay for a Sunday unless they have agreed to a different rate with their employer.

If an employee doesn’t work on Easter Sunday:

  • because their workplace is closed because of shop trading hours restrictions, and
  • Sunday is a normal day of work (otherwise working day) for them, then

what they get paid for that day would depend on the terms and conditions of their employment agreement. Usually, if an employee is able to work on a day that is a contracted day of work for them, then the employer has to provide them with work for that day. If the employer doesn’t provide the employee with work (eg stocktaking while the shop is closed) they may have to pay the employee what they would have been paid if they had worked that particular day (unless the employment agreement says otherwise).

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Page last revised: 17 February 2023

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