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(Image: Tina Tiller)
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PoliticsOctober 13, 2023

Election 2023: The employment policies in two minutes

(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

Pay gaps, public holidays and paid parental leave: the policies around work and employment vary substantially across the political spectrum. has the details, but here are the fundamentals in two minutes.

See more from our policy in two minutes series here.

We might take it for granted as we pack our little tupperware container lunch into our bag before heading out the door to embark on our commute to work, but for many of us – or 2,927,000 of us, to be exact – our jobs profoundly shape our lives. Our employment impacts our mental wellbeing, relationships, productivity, physical safety, ability to pay our rent and grocery bills and more broadly, the country’s economy. It’s where a good deal of us spend the majority of our waking hours. That is to say, the policies which influence and determine what our work looks like are of huge consequence. 

Whether you work a regular 9-5, part-time, casual or shifts; see what the political parties vying for your vote have in plan for workers in Aotearoa. 

Employment conditions

The working conditions of teachers, healthcare workers and public sector workers is a focus for The Green Party. Across all sectors, they want to set a minimum entitlement of compensation for workers who are made redundant, increase funding for workplace safety authorities and strengthen laws against bullying and harassment in the workplace. As well, the party would introduce default union membership whereby people would automatically join a union when starting a new job, and could then opt out if they wish.

The current personal grievance process allows people to file complaints against their employers for reasons such as racial harassment or unjustified dismissal, but Act believes it is slow, costly and unfairly favours employees. The party’s solution? Restrict remedies for employees and require all ERA determinations to be made within one month – the party says it will fire ERA members who fail to meet this expectation. Act would also reintroduce 90-day trials, so that employers would be able to dismiss employees without reason within 90 days of hiring. Likewise, National has also promised to reintroduce 90-day trials.

Labour would ratify the international convention that safeguards the rights of both employees and employers to freely organise. The party would continue their support for fair pay agreements, which were introduced in 2022 as a way for workers to negotiate core minimum conditions. Both National and Act have vowed to abolish fair pay agreements.

Both National and Act want to abolish fair pay agreements. (Photo: Michael Andrew)


No matter how much you love your job, sometimes, for whatever reason, you need a little break. The Green Party would phase in five weeks of annual leave, implement the recommendations of the Holidays Act Taskforce, extend paid parental leave to 15 months and adjust bereavement leave entitlements.

National would allow parents to take paid leave at the same time

Labour would provide two weeks of paid partner’s leave for families, progressively expanding to four weeks by July 2026.

Act would remove the January 2 public holiday to “help small business absorb the cost of Matariki”.

Wages and pay

The Green Party would increase the minimum wage with inflation. In response to the ethnic and gender pay disparity, they would support pay equity settlements and implement comprehensive pay gap reporting.

The pay gap is on Labour’s agenda too: they would require pay gap reporting. The party would abolish starting out and training wages which are lower than the standard rate, saying this is unfair and inequitable. They have pledged to increase the minimum wage every year.

Currently in Aotearoa, employers can apply for an exemption to pay less than the minimum wage to employees with disabilities. Te Pāti Māori would put an end to the exemption. The party also wants to increase the minimum wage to $25 an hour, which is $2.30 more than the current minimum. 

NZ First would compensate people who lost jobs due to Covid-19 vaccination requirements and has said it would end the use of vaccine mandates (although there are no government vaccine mandates in place at the moment). And they wish to freeze MP salaries until frontline workers receive pay rises.

Act believes government Kiwisaver contributions are poorly-targeted social spending and instead taxes should be cut, so they would reduce contributions to not exceed 5% of a person’s taxable income, and those with incomes above $65,000 would receive no contribution.

Party policies around wages vary drastically across the political spectrum.


There’s a range of opinions when it comes to the best way to create and maintain jobs around the country. For The Green Party, the emphasis is on transitioning to  low-carbon, climate-resilient employment by reform of Rau Paenga into the Ministry of Green Works. As part of this transition they would work with unions, employers, iwi and hapū and prioritise the Māori economy when developing low-emissions jobs in regions impacted. They also want to train more mental health professionals.

Labour, not just by name apparently, has the chunkiest list of job policies. The party has pledged to increase abatement thresholds (the amount of income someone can earn before their benefit starts to reduce) to incentivise part-time work. They would continue funding Jobs for Nature projects, which support people into nature-based employment, and Te Ara Paerangi – a government programme aimed at reforming New Zealand’s public research, science and innovation system. In the trades, the party has promised to continue a transformation plan for the construction industry which will address workforce instability and they would continue to support regional skills groups. They would make the Apprenticeship Boost scheme (a payment made to employers to help them retain and take on new apprentices) permanent. They have also pledged to increase overseas recruitment of senior medical workers and train 300 additional police officers.

On police officers, NZ First also wants to train more, but the number they’ve settled on is 500. The party has said it will also continue supporting the Jobs for Nature programme.

Both NZ First and Labour want to train more police.

National would axe the requirement for the Reserve Bank to focus on maximising employment, arguing that it has made it harder for the bank to reduce inflation. The party says training programmes for new teachers don’t focus enough on the basics and would require teachers to provide evidence of professional development to re-certify. The party would stop funding certain workforce development and regional employment initiatives.

National has a vast collection of policies geared toward encouraging overseas labour which include, but are not limited to, increasing the cap on seasonal workers and relaxing the rules around pay and housing for employers participating in the RSE scheme, raising the upper age limit for working holiday visas to 35, allowing migrant workers to pay domestic rates for industry training and getting rid of the median wage requirements for work visas. They would allow international students to work more hours while studying.

Act would shrink the number of public servants and hold pay increases at or below the rate of inflation (not including police, frontline health and education workers and the defence force.) 

Contract workers 

As part of wider plans to strengthen the rights of contract workers, The Green Party would ensure contract workers can participate in Fair Pay Agreements and collective bargaining. 

Labour would clarify the legal definition of employees and contractors, saying this would help protect vulnerable workers. They would extend the living wage to contracted workers in the education sector and Te Whatu Ora.

On the contrary, Act would prevent contractors from challenging their employment status in the Employment Court.

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