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New Holiday’s Act Simpler and Fairer

1 February 2002 Media Statement

New Holiday’s Act Simpler and Fairer

“New Zealanders will be better off as a result of Labour Alliance Coalition changes to the Holidays Act.”

“The key decisions announced today as part of the Government’s Holiday’s Act review will make new holidays legislation much simpler and fairer for both employers and employees”, said Associate Minister of Labour Laila Harré.

“The strengthening of the special leave entitlements was a high priority for the Alliance and is of particular importance to workers with poor bargaining power, who in many cases, have had only 5 days a year combined for sick leave, domestic leave and bereavement leave”, said Laila Harré.

“Being able to accumulate up to 15 days special leave and making bereavement leave much more flexible will make a huge difference.”

“We have recognised the importance of public holidays for workers by saying that they should be paid time and a half for working that day as well as getting a day off in lieu, as is the current situation. The Alliance has always pushed for a minimum additional payment for public holidays”.

As Associate Minister, and Alliance Industrial Relations Spokesperson, Laila Harré has played an active role throughout the review and is very pleased with the decisions reached by Cabinet.

Laila Harré also acknowledged the efforts of the union and employer advisory group in identifying the key issues and their positions. She said she believes the Cabinet decisions should be acceptable to both employers and unions.

One of the key components of the review was on the period of annual leave entitlement, over which coalition partners have agreed to disagree

Although the legislation that will be introduced will only provide for 3 weeks minimum annual leave entitlement, the Alliance has agreement from Cabinet that it will introduce an amendment that this be extended to 4 weeks minimum entitlement.

“We are working on a campaign to win this amendment. I am pretty confident that before this law goes through Parliament it will include 4 weeks annual leave.”

“The amendment aims to bring up the standard of leave entitlement to levels enjoyed by workers in almost sixty countries around the world. Australian workers receive 4 weeks minimum annual leave, while workers in countries such as France, Germany and Sweden have 5 to 6 weeks holiday a year”, said Ms Harré.

“Annual leave entitlements in New Zealand have not been increased for almost 30 years. Initiatives such as 4 weeks annual leave, paid parental leave and improvements in minimum wages are all part of the Alliance’s commitment to modernising working conditions for New Zealand workers”.

Four weeks annual leave is one of the policies that the Alliance has signalled as a priority for this year in government.

ENDS

Additional Information

The key objectives of the new Holidays Act are for:
 annual holidays to provide paid time off to employees for rest and recreation;
 public holidays to provide for the common observance of days of national, religious or cultural significance; and
 special leave to provide “insurance” when employees are unable to work because they are sick, someone in their immediate family is sick, or they have suffered a bereavement.

The Government has made key decisions around each of these objectives:

Annual Holidays
1. 3 weeks annual holidays upon the completion of 12 months continuous employment (NB: the Alliance intends to move an amendment that this entitlement be 4 weeks)
2. at least 2 weeks of an employee’s annual holidays should be taken in one uninterrupted period
3. the entitlement to annual holidays remains in force until they are taken and that the onus should remain on the employer to ensure that an employee takes annual holidays
4. in the first instance, timing of annual holidays should be by agreement between and employer and employee
5. to continue the current provisions that allow an employer to closedown its business and require employees to take annual holidays at that time, but only for one closedown a year
6. the calculation of annual holiday pay will be simplified
7. “pay as you go” annual holiday pay (where an employee receives a payment for annual holiday pay with each salary or wages payment) should only be permitted where the employee’s employment agreement is for a period of less than 12 months and the employee has agreed to this in writing, and where the holiday pay is an identifiable component of the wages

Public Holidays
1. all employees will continue to get 11 pubic holidays if they are days they normally work
2. all employees should be paid rate and a half for working on a public holiday (an employment agreement cannot provide for a lower rate of pay), as well as a day in lieu
3. the separate provisions for rate of pay for working on a public holiday in factories and undertakings should be removed
4. an employee cannot be compelled to work on a public holiday unless it is a term of their employment agreement
5. payment and day in lieu entitlements for Waitangi and ANZAC Days should be consistent with the other public holidays
6. where Christmas and New Year public holidays fall on or over a weekend, they should be transferred based on the working week of the employee (i.e. transferred for employees who do not normally work on the weekend, and observed where they fall for employees who do not normally work on the weekend)

Special Leave
1. special leave should be split into two separate entitlements, one to sick and domestic leave, and the other to bereavement leave
2. an employee should be entitled to all types of special leave upon the completion of 6 months continuous employment
3. the entitlement to sick and domestic leave should be 5 days per year and may be accumulated to a maximum of 15 days
4. the entitlement to bereavement leave applies per bereavement and should be a two-tiered entitlement of:
 3 days upon the death of an employee’s spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or spouse/partner’s parent; and
 1 day on any other occasion where the employer accepts the employee has suffered a bereavement and taking into account cultural requirements

Enforcement
1. the current level of penalties should be increased to a maximum of $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a company or corporation
2. the penalty for a continuing offence should be increased to a maximum of $1,000 for every day that the offence continues

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