Waitangi Day 2021 – top seven employment tips you need to know

This year, Waitangi Day falls on Saturday 6 February and is observed on that day or Monday 8 February. Here are seven things you need to know about rights for employees and obligations for employers.

1. Mondayisation for Waitangi Day

This year, Waitangi Day falls on a Saturday. This means the holiday is moved to the following Monday, which is Monday 8 February.

2. Requirement to work on Waitangi Day

If your employee normally works on Waitangi Monday 8 February you can only make the employee work or be available on the Monday 8 February, if:

  • the requirement to work on public holidays is written in their employment agreement (contract), or
  • there is an availability clause and the employee is paid fairly to be available.

Otherwise, an employee does not have to agree to work or being available during Waitangi Monday.

3. Payment for working a public holiday

Employees must be paid for Waitangi Day, if they normally work on Saturday 6 February or Monday 8 February. If they don’t normally work on these particular days, they don’t need to be paid for Waitangi Day.

Any employee (including a casual employee) who agrees to work on the Waitangi Saturday must be paid time and a half for all hours they work. Any employee (including a casual employee) who agrees to work on Monday 8 February and has not worked on Saturday 6 February, must be paid time and a half, if Monday is a day that they normally would work. If an employee works on both Waitangi Saturday 6 February and Monday 8 February, they only get paid time and a half for one of the days. (See item 4 below).

In addition, if the Waitangi Saturday or Monday falls on a day an employee would normally work on the Saturday or Monday, then the employee who works is also entitled to a paid day off at another time (called an alternative holiday or day in lieu).

Even if an employer closes their business on 6 February and/or 8 February, they still have to pay the employees their entitlements for the public holiday. If the employer closes their business on both days, they cannot make their employees take annual leave on one of the days, unless the employer has given the employee 14 days’ notice.

Public holidays

4. Giving an employee Waitangi Day entitlements

  • If an employee normally does not work on Waitangi Saturday, they get the public holiday on the Mondayised Waitangi Monday.
  • If an employee would normally work on the Waitangi Saturday if it was not a public holiday, then they will get their holiday entitlements on that Saturday.
  • If an employee does not normally work on the Waitangi Saturday, but works on the Mondayised Waitangi day, then their holiday entitlement is transferred to the Waitangi Monday.

Public holiday falls on Saturday

5. Sick or bereavement leave on Waitangi Day

When an employee would have worked on a public holiday but is sick or bereaved, the day is treated as a normal paid public holiday and:

  • the employee would be paid their relevant daily pay or average daily pay, but would not be entitled to time and a half or an alternative holiday.
  • no sick or bereavement leave is deducted.

Pay for public holidays, sick and bereavement leave and alternative holidays

6. Waitangi day and annual holidays

If the employee is in the middle of their annual holidays during Waitangi Day, and Waitangi Saturday or Monday is a day they normally work, they will get paid for one Waitangi holiday, and this is not deducted from their annual holidays. (See number 4 above – and note this is a must and cannot be contracted out of.)

7. Requests for annual holidays

Sometimes employees will request to extend Waitangi Day with annual holidays.

Employees are entitled to 4 weeks’ annual holidays each year when they have worked for their employer for 12 months. Prior to the 12 months, an employer may grant annual holidays in advance at their discretion.

If an employee wants to take entitled annual holidays, the employer can’t unreasonably refuse. An employer can say no if an employee wants to take annual holidays in advance.

Taking annual holidays 

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