The work week in New Zealand is typically 40 hours spread over 5 days, although reasonable overtime is permitted. There are no standard hours, but most businesses work Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm with a lunch break of 30 to 60 minutes. Work/life balance is considered important and anyone can ask their employer for flexible working arrangements with the expectation that their request will at least be considered.
Most full-time employees are entitled to at least 4 weeks of annual leave each year in addition to public holidays. Casual workers or those on fixed-term contracts of less than a year may choose to receive extra pay (usually around 8% more) instead of accruing holiday. Any leave is then taken as unpaid.
There are 11 public holidays in New Zealand. Ten of them are observed nationally, with an eleventh – the Provincial Anniversary Day – differing by area. For this year’s holiday dates, including provincial observations, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.
National public holiday dates
New Year's Day Sunday 1 January
Day after New Year's Day Monday 2 January or Wednesday 4 January
Waitangi Day Monday 6 February*
Good Friday Friday 14 April
Easter Monday Monday 17 April
ANZAC Day Tuesday 25 April
Queen's Birthday Monday 5 June
Labour Day Monday 23 October
Christmas Day Monday 25 December
Boxing Day Tuesday 26 December
Visas and eligibility to work
Apart from a few exceptions, the majority of foreign nationals visiting New Zealand will need to obtain a visa. New Zealand offers several types of visa, and eligibility for each depends on your nationality, the length of your stay and whether you are planning to work or study during your visit. The Immigration New Zealand website provides information about all the options. To work, you usually need to have a firm job offer before making an application for your visa. Certain professions are in particularly high demand in New Zealand, so check the Essential Skills List before applying.
If you are working in New Zealand it is best to apply for an IRD Number. These are not compulsory, but if you don’t have one you may be taxed at a higher rate. Tax rates vary according to your earnings, and are usually deducted directly from your pay through the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. Unlike some countries, there is no tax-free allowance – you pay tax on your whole income. The New Zealand Inland Revenue website offers a comprehensive guide to taxation issues in the country, or you can visit New Zealand Now for a quick overview.
To save for retirement, most New Zealand citizens or permanent residents will be automatically enrolled in the KiwiSaver scheme, although they can choose to opt out. The scheme works through a combination of voluntary contributions, employer contributions and government contributions. If you are in New Zealand on a temporary, visitor, work or student visa, you are not eligible for KiwiSaver. If you contribute to KiwiSaver as a permanent resident and then leave New Zealand for good, you may be able to claim back some of your contributions.
The social welfare system in New Zealand is comprehensive, but many benefits are only available to citizens and permanent residents. For a rough idea of your entitlements, complete this questionnaire on the New Zealand Work and Income website.
New Zealand is committed to promoting the active inclusion of disabled people within a tolerant society as outlined in the New Zealand Disability Strategy. It is one of the few countries to recognise Sign Language as an official language. For more information on disability rights, visit the New Zealand Human Rights Commission website.