“Tis the season”… for holiday pay queries, and we cover tips on public holiday entitlements here.

Acts / 17 December 2018
“Tis the season”… for holiday pay queries, and we cover tips on public holiday entitlements here.

Paying for public holidays

Public holidays are in addition to annual holidays and there is no minimum period of time an employee has to be employed to get public holidays benefits.  The Christmas period can be a challenging time of year for employers trying to manage the minefield that is the Holidays Act 2003 (Act), but it pays to get it right. Where an employer gets it wrong, there is risk of a penalty award and backpay for up to six years.

Who is entitled to payment for public holidays?

An employee is entitled to be paid for a public holiday even if they don’t work that day, if the day on which the public holidays falls would “otherwise be a working day” for them.

If employees work on a public holiday they are entitled to be paid their normal pay (relevant or average daily pay), plus half that amount again for hours actually worked.  If the public holiday falls on a day an employee would otherwise have worked, they will also be entitled to an alternative holiday.

In summary, alternative holidays can either be used, by agreement or at the employer’s direction, or may be cashed out by agreement, when 12 months has passed since accrual.

Transfer of public holidays

Some public holidays that fall at the weekend (Christmas day, Boxing day, New Year’s day, 2 January) are automatically transferred to the Monday (if the day falls on Saturday) or Tuesday (if the day falls on Sunday) immediately following the weekend, where the weekend day is not one that an employee would otherwise have worked.  Waitangi day and ANZAC day automatically transfer to the Monday if the day falls on either a Saturday or Sunday.  If the employee would otherwise have worked on the weekend day day the public holiday falls  there is no transfer.  The intention is that everyone gets the benefit of the public holiday in some form.

Christmas Day 2016 is a good example of how this works in practice, as it  fell on a Sunday.  For employees who work Sundays, that day was the public holiday.  For everyone who doesn’t work Sundays, the public holiday was recognised on the following Tuesday.  The holiday is only recognised once – employees who work both Sundays and Tuesdays can’t “double dip” and claim two public holidays.

Public holidays can also be transferred to another day by agreement in writing.  In that case, the agreement must specify which public holiday is being transferred and the date it is being transferred to.  The new date can’t be another public holiday and must be a day the employee would otherwise have worked.

Determining whether a day would “otherwise be working day”

Not sure if your employee would have otherwise been working?  The Act lists factors to consider including, what the employment agreement states, what the work patterns are, any rosters or systems in place, whether the employee works only when work is available, and the reasonable expectations of the parties.

If you would like advice regarding public holidays, please contact our team.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

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