Eight times Labour proved it has workers' backs

Our name says a lot about our priorities, but so does our history. We’ve consistently fought for workers’ rights – from when our Party first formed in 1916, to now, when we’ve placed workers’ rights and health at the centre of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In honour of International Workers’ Day, celebrated on 1 May, here’s a look back at some of the key moments in Labour’s ongoing mahi to support working Kiwis.

Defined the work week

In 1936, our first Labour Government signed the 40-hour working week into law for most workers in factories and workshops. Over the following decade, further law changes made this work week almost universal.

Bumped up holidays

Along with a 40-hour working week, the first Labour Government also established two weeks’ paid holiday annually to all employees – because free time is important! In 1974, Labour increased the amount of annual leave workers had a right to – from two to three weeks. Three decades later, Labour lifted this further to four weeks’ leave, again giving workers more time to spend with loved ones.

Making it easier to save

In 2006, the fifth Labour Government created KiwiSaver, a savings scheme to help Kiwi workers put aside money for their first home and retirement. Not only does this system help you to put away a little bit each pay, but the Government chips in, too – up to around $520 a year.

Giving parents a break

Paid parental leave was introduced in New Zealand by Labour in 2002. Since then, we’ve extended paid parental leave – increasing the time new parents can take to get set up, while being paid, from 18 weeks to 26. Bumping up this support reduces stress for families in the first months of their baby’s life, easing the pressure on parents to jump straight back into work.

Restoring workers’ rights

We’re making sure workers get a fair deal by strengthening employment law. This includes bringing back meal and rest breaks, strengthening collective bargaining, restoring protections for vulnerable workers, and limiting 90-day trials to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Supporting Kiwis over lockdown

In 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Here in Aotearoa, going hard and early proved best for public health and our economy. As we stayed home to save lives, wage subsidies supported around 1.8 million workers – making sure more New Zealanders could weather the lockdown without financial stress.

Increasing sick leave

No one should feel pressured to come into work when they’re sick. Currently, the minimum sick leave entitlement for employees is five days a year. We’ve introduced legislation to double that, to 10 days per year.

Boosting the minimum wage

We believe everyone deserves a fair wage for their hard work. This year, we increased the minimum wage to $20 per hour – meaning around 175,500 workers will be better off. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pointed out when announcing the change, we’ve boosted the minimum wage by $4.25 per hour in total since 2017.

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