Upcoming election: Major and minor parties employment policies

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

With the upcoming election, the vast majority of the focus has been upon the policies being put by the two major parties and how they stack up against each other. However, New Zealand is a Mixed Member Proportionate system and so whether the New Zealand National Party (National) or New Zealand Labour Party (Labour) are voted in, they will likely form a coalition with minor parties. As such, the policies put forward by minor parties are likely to have some impact upon future legislation.

Here's a summary of what the two major parties are proposing.


If Labour gets a second term, they are proposing the following changes;

  • Increase the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2020,
  • Extend the living wage to all public sector contractors,
  • Introduce a new public holiday to celebrate Matariki from 2022,
  • Make changes to simplify the Holidays Act, including allowing employees to be allowed to take sick and annual leave when needed with their leave accruing over time instead of becoming available as a block when they reach six or 12 months employment.
  • Extend sick leave entitlements from 5 to 10 days per year,
  • Pass legislation to set the minimum content that must be included in fair pay agreements, and would implement these laws within competitive industries,
  • Improve pay equity information by improving transparency for woman through better records of pay equity across NZ
  • Develop a better statutory regime to protect dependent contractors to ensure that they have fair wages and employment conditions,
  • Raise the minimum age for performing hazardous work from 15 to 16 to align with the school leaving age,
  • Introduce a levy on the maritime industry for payments to shore based welfare centres for seafarers (as currently facilities and services are largely funded by charities), and
  • Reinstate the right for workers in small businesses to elect health and safety representatives.


National is proposing to make the following changes;

  • Re-instating the 90-day trial periods for all businesses,
  • Postponing the planned 2021 increase to minimum wage,
  • Allowing parents to take paid parental leave at the same time,
  • Reviewing Worksafe's procedures and approach, and
  • Simplifying the employment dispute resolution process.

So how do the policies of minor parties stack up on employment law issues?

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (Greens)

Out of all of the minor parties, the Greens have the most policies targeted towards changes to employment law. The Greens have a number of policies focusing on minimum entitlements. Most notably they are looking to:

  • Increase the minimum wage annually in line with the median wage,
  • Increase annual leave to five weeks per year,
  • Provide ten days of paid sick leave per year,
  • Abolish the youth minimum wage,
  • Introduce a guaranteed minimum income for people not in full time employment.

Unsurprisingly, the Greens are also focussing on inequality and inequity and have policies designed to target this. Specifically, the Greens have said they will:

  • Establish industry wide “fair pay agreements”, which would set minimum employment standards for wages, redundancy or overtime for any given sector.
  • Require pay transparency and increase support for pay equity claims.
  • Set employment and equity standards for government contracts.
  • Prohibit pay discrimination against disabled people.

The Opportunities Party (TOP)

TOP’s employment policies are limited, but follow a similar vein to those of the Greens, namely to:

  • Improve protection for migrant workers by imposing harsher penalties for exploitative employers and granting workers a period of amnesty to find other work.
  • Review health and safety legislation as current provisions may be disproportionately costly.

Mā​ori Party

The Māori Party are looking to increase the minimum wage to $25 per hour and ensure the ability for multi-employer collective bargaining and collective bargaining for contractors.

ACT New Zealand (ACT)

At the other end of the political spectrum, ACT have said that they will reduce the minimum wage to $17.70 per hour and freeze it there for three years.

In addition to this ACT are looking to introduce a 12-month trial period for new employees in the workplace. The rationale behind this is to encourage employers in a post COVID-19 world to hire staff that they would otherwise be hesitant to employ.

New Conservative

The New Conservatives are looking to:

  • Freeze the minimum wage.
  • Allow employers to fire employees after one failure to correct underperformance.
  • Relax health and safety legislation for small and medium business that cannot afford to maintain the same regulatory standards as large businesses.
  • Exempt volunteers from prosecution for health and safety breaches.

For further information please contact a member of our employment team.


Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.


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