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Payment of wages: When and how

Your employer must pay you on your agreed pay day – which means the day of the week and the pay period (for example, fortnightly) that you agreed to when you started work. Your employer can’t change your normal pay day without your agreement.

Your wages must be paid in cash unless:

Wages Protection Act 1983, ss 7–10

  • your employment agreement specifies another form of payment (like an automatic payment), or you’ve otherwise agreed in writing to another form of payment, or
  • you’re absent from work when wages are paid, or
  • you’re employed by a local council or the government.

Wages Protection Act 1983, s 4

Your employer must pay you the entire amount of your wages without making deductions, subject to certain exceptions. See “When can my employer dock my pay?” below.

When can my employer dock my pay?

Wages Protection Act 1983, ss 5, 5A

Your employer can only make deductions from your wages in these limited situations:

  • if you’ve asked for or agreed to the deduction in writing, which could be through having a general deductions clause in your employment agreement (you can change your mind at any time by giving a written notice to your employer)
  • if the deduction is legally required – for example, child support payments or court fines
  • in some cases when you’ve been overpaid. See below, “What happens if I’m overpaid?”.

You might have a general “deductions clause” in your agreement – for example, one allowing your boss to dock your wages if you’ve damaged something at work, like plates if you work in a restaurant. But they have to consult with you beforehand every time they make a particular deduction under this clause. The deduction also can’t be unreasonable – for example, they can’t deduct money for loss or damage that was caused by someone else who you had no control over.

What happens if I’m overpaid?

Wages Protection Act 1983, s 6

Your employer doesn’t have a general right to make deductions from your wages to recover overpayments that were simply due to miscalculations or other mistakes.

They can only recover an overpayment through making deductions when:

  • you were paid the money for a period when you were either away from work without permission, or suspended, or on strike or locked out, and
  • because of your employer’s payment method, it wasn’t reasonably practical to avoid the overpayment (for example, there was an equipment failure).

Your employer must also give you proper notice that they intend to recover the overpayment.

Property Law Act 2007, s 74B

If your employer can’t legally recover an overpayment through deducting it from your wages, they can recover it in the same way as for other debts. However, you may not have to pay back an overpayment if the money was paid by mistake and you spent it after receiving it in good faith – that is, you believed you were genuinely entitled to it.

Otherwise your employer can only recover an overpayment by deducting it from your wages with your written permission.

Next Section | Pay and time records

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Employment: Conditions & protections

Where to go for more support

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Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

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Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

www.employment.govt.nz

Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on:

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa

www.worksafe.govt.nz

Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments

www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)

www.ombudsman.govt.nz

Free phone: 0800 802 602
Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi

www.union.org.nz

Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

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