Matariki 2023


14 July 2023 marks the second year that we officially celebrate Matariki in Aotearoa as a public holiday.

Matariki is a culturally significant step in our history as it is the first public holiday which recognises and celebrates Te Ao Maōri.  Although it is our newest public holiday, the rights and obligations of employers and employees are long established. In this article we explore the significance of Matariki marking the Māori New Year while also using an employment law lens to consider obligations on public holidays.

How does Te Kāhui o Matariki Public Holiday Act celebrate mātauranga Māori?

The Act places emphasis on three things:

Celebrating Matariki in the workplace

Some ideas.

For Employers this public holiday the obligations are the same as other public holiday in New Zealand.

Employees are entitled to a paid day off if it would otherwise be a working day for that employee.  It would otherwise be a working day if the employee would have been working if that day was not a public holiday such as Matariki.

For example: If Sarah works on Friday’s, and Matariki falls on a Friday, she would be entitled to either a paid day off or additional benefits in the event she works on that day.

If you are an employer and have employees who are casual, or work an irregular pattern of days, we suggest seeking legal advice if you are unsure of their entitlements.

Are there different trading hours on Matariki?

No. Unlike Christmas Day, Anzac Day or Easter, there are no trading restrictions on Matariki.

Employees that work on a public holiday.

Not all businesses can or will close on public holidays. It is important to ensure employees that do work on Matariki are correctly compensated for working on the public holiday.


Employees that work on a public holiday are entitled to a be paid time and a half.

For example: If Sarah’s hourly rate is $23 and she works eight hours on Matariki (public holiday), she will get paid for the eight hours she worked, plus an additional four hours.

8 Hours + 4 Hours = 12 Hours

12 Hours x $23= $276

Sarah would receive $276 for working 8 Hours on Matariki.

Alternative Day off

Some employees may also be entitled to an alternative day off.  If a public holiday falls on a day that would otherwise be a working day for an employee (as explained above), and the employee works on the public holiday, they can take their ‘public holiday’ on another day which is to be agreed between the employer and the employee.

If the employee and employer are unable to agree when the employee will take their alternative day off, the employer can on a reasonable basis, determine a date the employee must take their alternative day. However, we stress this must be done on a reasonable basis, and the employer should give the employee at least 14 days’ notice.

If the employee is unable to take their alternative holiday during their employment, this will be paid out at the end of their employment.

The significance of public holidays to each person.

The multicultural population of the New Zealand naturally means some official public holidays will have more cultural significance to an individual person than others.

Some employers are starting to act on this, such as Unilever NZ, who allow employees to exchange public holidays for other days off which are more culturally significant to them personally.

For example: an employee may work on Labour day and instead take a public holiday on a day in January/ February for Chinese New Year if that day is more culturally significant for them.

The policy reflects New Zealand’s employment laws which allow public holidays to be switched for different days. However, this must be agreed in writing between the employer and employee. It also does not impact the employee’s overall entitlements to Public Holidays as they are observed on another calendar day.

In the future with the growing diversity of the nation we may see more employers taking the ‘Unilever approach’.

If you have questions about your rights or obligations regarding public holidays, including updating your policies to reflect the ability to transfer that public holiday, or if you have any other employment law related questions, get in touch here.

Disclaimer:  This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice.  If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it get in contact with the Black Door Law team.