New Zealand Work Culture

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Work Culture

To succeed in business in New Zealand, it is vital for both employers and employees to have a strong understanding of the business culture. As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about New Zealand work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in New Zealand to start your expansion well-informed.

To succeed in business in New Zealand it is vital to have a strong understanding of the country’s business culture. New Zealand’s business culture is globally minded, inventive, self-reliant, and places importance on both the work of management and the employees.

The work environment is largely egalitarian, placing importance and value on useful ideas and feedback from all participants, rather than operating under traditional business hierarchies. Businessmen in New Zealand value honesty, openness, and place significant trust on those that they are doing business with. Thus, it is important to both you and your local business partners to treat business dealings with respect and great care.

There has been an increasing awareness around the world in the importance of work-life balance and flexible working times, but New Zealand, like many, still regard office etiquette to be of great importance to the management of business and business relations. Here are some tips and tricks to use during your first few months:

  • Punctuality: Punctuality is expected in New Zealand. Being more than 5-10 minutes late without giving someone forewarning is seen by locals as disrespectful. Tardiness reflects badly, so it is best to arrive to meetings on time or a little early.
  • Languages: The English language is used for day-to-day business dealings in New Zealand, but the Maori language is also a big part of the culture in New Zealand, so it may work in your favor to learn a few Maori phrases.
  • Introductions/Greetings: Greetings in New Zealand are casual, consisting of a handshake and a smile. Smiling is important as it indicates pleasure of meeting the other person.
  • Gift-giving: Giving gifts in business meetings or partnerships are greatly appreciated, when one does so, although they are not expected. However, be wary of when you send the gift and how, so it will not appear to be an attempt at bribery. So, avoid giving gifts during business deal negotiations, and give gifts either before business dealings, during introductions, or after as a form of congratulations.
  • Dress code: When doing business in New Zealand, it is best to dress conservatively and more towards a formal look. Men should wear dark-colored suits with a white shirt and a tie, whilst women should a dark-colored suit, a dress, or a skirt and blouse with a jacket. However, the de facto dress code is smart casual.
  • Formality: Formality is still given importance in business dealings in New Zealand, despite the casual demeanor of New Zealanders in most situations.
    In the case of addressing business partners, locals tend to move to first names quickly, but it is best to address them by their honorific title and surname until they suggest moving to a more familiar level.
  • Meetings: To begin meetings, it is best to break the ice with some light and social conversation, as well as some food or drinks. It is best to avoid personal topics and use humor throughout to lighten the setting. Maintaining the impression that everything is well-managed and under control is advised. New Zealanders want to feel relaxed about business, no matter the situation.
  • Agreements: Agreements must state all points clearly, and all terms and conditions should be explained in detail. Agreements should be written down.
  • Socializing: Self-deprecation is common in conversation in an effort to come across as humble, honest, and relaxed about themselves, and cussing is very common in conversation.
  • Hierarchy: Anyone present in business dealings or meetings may voice their opinions, regardless of their age or position. Using a position of power as leverage is generally frowned upon in New Zealand.

Communication: New Zealanders are relatively indirect as communicators. They do their best to avoid conflict and wish to avoid openly rocking the boat, so they will take careful measures to remain polite throughout conversation or discussion. However, their communication is not so indirect as to provide deciphering, and New Zealanders tend to speak openly enough that their intentions and meanings of their words are clear enough.  New Zealanders also tend to feel uncomfortable with long stretches of silence, whereas the Maori then to feel quite comfortable with it and feel less of a need to fill these silences with filler conversation.

New Zealand’s Minimum Wage

In New Zealand, the minimum wage applies to all employees aged 16 and over who are employed full-time, part-time, fixed-term, casual, working from home, and are paid by wages, salary, commission, or piece rates. The minimum wage rates are set annually and is set by the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

As of 1 April 2021, the adult minimum wage was increased to NZ$20 per hour.

  • A starting-out minimum wage – applies solely to workers aged between 16 and 19 and are entering the workforce for the first time.
  • A training minimum wage – applies to employees aged 20 years and over who are completing recognized industry training which involves at least 60 credits to become qualified

Probation Periods in New Zealand

New Zealand has two types of probationary periods for new employees:

  1. A trial period: Trial periods are used by employers with 19 or fewer employees when hiring new employees and is eligible so long as it is agreed to by both parties in the written employment agreement. The trial period can be no more than 90 days.
  2. Probation period: A probationary period can be used for new employees, as well as employees taking on a higher role or additional responsibilities. Probationary periods are not limited to 90 days and can potentially be used for longer periods of time, if agreed to by both parties and with good reason.

Working Hours in New Zealand

Working hours cannot exceed 40 hours per week, exclusive of overtime. Where the maximum number of hours to be worked every week is not more than 40, the employment agreement shall fix the daily working hours so that employees will not be more than 5 days a week.
The fixed number of hours to be worked in a week may be greater than 40 if both the employer and employee agree.

Overtime in New Zealand

Overtime rates are to be negotiated between the employer and employee. There is no legal requirement to pay for overtime at a premium rate, but employees on an hourly wage must be paid for all hours worked.