Working holidays and weekends 

Can my employer make me work on the weekend?

Your hours of work are a matter for agreement between you and your employer, and whether or not your boss can make you work on the weekend depends on what is in your employment agreement. 

If your employment agreement includes undertaking additional work as reasonably required, then this may involve weekend work from time-to-time.  

Depending on whether you are paid a wage or a salary you may be entitled to overtime for this.  

If you are required to work weekends on a regular basis, then this should be reflected in your employment agreement. If your employer wants to change your agreed hours of work, they need your agreement. 

Your employer must not require you to work hours which might put your health and safety at risk. 

If you are concerned about the hours you are being asked to work, or the compensation you are receiving for additional hours, then the first step would be to discuss your concerns with your employer. If this gets you nowhere, then you can seek independent mediation through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (0800 20 90 20).

My employer has said that I have to work the upcoming public holiday. I don’t want to. Is that fair?

Your employer can require you to work on a public holiday, if:

  • the holiday falls on a day you would normally have worked and
  • your employment agreement says you will have to work on the holiday. 

If your employment agreement does not require you to work on a public holiday and it is a day you would otherwise normally work, then you are entitled to take the holiday as paid time off. 

For more information go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s Employment website or call MBIE on 0800 20 90 20.

What am I entitled to if I work on a public holiday?

If you work on a public holiday, your employer must pay you one and a half times your pay for each hour of work, even if you are a salaried employee. If the day that was the public holiday would usually have been a working day for you, you are also entitled to an alternative day off at a later date. This alternative day must be a whole day, even if you only worked on part of the public holiday.

Alternatively you and your employer may agree to 'swap' the day you observe a public holiday, with your employer's agreement. (See next question.)

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment website contains more information about payment for working on a public holiday, including in relation to different work arrangements such as for employees who do shift work on public holidays or whose pay varies within a given pay period.

My employer has asked me to ‘swap’ my public holiday with another date. What does that mean?

Employees and employers can agree to ‘transfer’ one or more public holidays to another agreed day.

This means you would work on the public holiday and have a paid day off on a different day (it has to be a day which you would normally work, and in the same calendar year).

If you end up working on the “replacement” day off as well, you are entitled to be paid time and a half for the hours you worked that day and take another day as a replacement public holiday.

If you and your employer do agree that you’ll transfer a public holiday to another date, it’s wise to have the agreement in writing. The agreement should specify exactly which public holiday is being transferred (for example, if you’re working on Labour Day and taking your Labour Day holiday on another date, the agreement between you needs to say that you are exchanging Labour Day). It should also say what date you are now going to take the public holiday.

Your employer can’t ask you to exchange your public holiday for the purpose of avoiding paying you time and a half (even if that might be the outcome)

If you and your employer can’t agree what date you want to observe the public holiday, your employer is able to decide for you (providing it is a reasonable date) and gives you at least fourteen days’ notice of the date.

I agreed to transfer my public holiday to a set date, but the new date is going to be during the week I’m on leave. Will I lose one day’s annual leave?

The day shouldn’t be taken from your annual leave entitlement - it will be as if you’d taken leave in a week there is a public holiday.

I have a major deadline in my work and want to work on a public holiday to meet it, but my employer says my workplace has a policy that public holidays can’t be exchanged. What does this mean?

Some employers have a workplace policy that says they won’t exchange public holidays. They should tell you when you start working for them if they have this policy - but it is also a good idea to ask.