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Shift workers' holidays protected under law change

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Labour

26 September 2008 Media Statement

Shift workers' holidays protected under law change

Shift workers and their employers will benefit from a change made to the Holidays Act that will allow the transfer of public holidays, Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said.

"This bill demonstrates again this Labour-led government's commitment to New Zealand workers. It follows on from other moves to boost protections for our most vulnerable workers – by enshrining meal and rest breaks and breastfeeding breaks into legislation.

"The Holidays (Transfer of Public Holidays) Amendment Bill passed by parliament today amends the Holidays Act 2003 in relation to the transfer of public holidays for employees whose work shift crosses midnight. It will ensure that when a shift spans two days, at least one of which is a public holiday, an agreement can be reached, by an employer and employee, so that the public holiday can be recognised on one whole shift.

"This legislation is needed following a Supreme Court decision which found that an employer and employee cannot agree to transfer a public holiday from a day listed in the Holidays Act to another day. This was clearly not the intent of the act, and not being able to transfer public holidays can have a particularly disruptive effect on shift-based operations.

"The Supreme Court decision meant employees' wages could be calculated at differing rates for an entire shift when the shift crossed into a public holiday. It also meant that where a business chose to close down on the public holiday their employees may have been required to work up to midnight when the public holiday started, and completed their shift from midnight at the end of the public holiday.

"This went against the government's intention in the Holidays Act to promote balance between work and other aspects of employees’ lives.

"This legislative change will ensure that employers will have the flexibility to transfer a public holiday in line with their business needs and that employees working shifts that span two days are able to enjoy the application of a public holiday to one whole shift. It is supported by both Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions," Trevor Mallard said.


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