As we enter the Christmas season many will be thinking about their annual leave.

Most employees know they are entitled to at least four weeks’ paid leave. A purpose of the Holidays Act 2003 is to promote work-life balance and provide an opportunity for ‘rest and recreation.’

It is a reward for the hard work you have been putting in all year. Some may use their entitlement to take much-needed breaks throughout the year. Others may prefer to save it up for a long-awaited holiday to Fiji.

The same Act allows an employer to deduct employees’ annual leave during a ‘closedown period,’ typically over Christmas.

This makes sense. For some businesses there is no point operating the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, and employers have a right to manage their own business. An employer may be the sole supervisor, and may wish to take a break. Bosses need holidays too.

The issue is there is currently no limit as to how long a closedown may be. This means that a business may theoretically close down for four weeks, requiring employees to use up all their paid annual leave. Such an extended closedown period could allow an employer to reasonably refuse leave to employees at other times of the year, lest they are not covered during the closedown.

Employers are required to give employees just 14 days’ notice of a closedown- good luck planning that holiday.

For employees an element of control over their lives is lost- they may not wish to use up all their leave entitlements at once. What if they want to avoid holiday-season flight prices? What if they need to take time off in June for a friend’s wedding?

Whether this represents a deficiency in the law is a matter of opinion. Is the Holidays Act promoting work-life balance?

Tell us what you think.


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Located in the heart of Wellington City, BuckettLaw services clients nationwide, with a strong presence in certain regions. If you are unsure whether you need an employment lawyer, or want a preliminary discussion on your employment issue, get in touch with one of our employment lawyers right away.
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