Operating a Business

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In this page: Setting Up a Company | The Active Population in Figures | Working Conditions | Cost of Labour | Social Partners


Setting Up a Company

Sole Trader or Proprietorship
Number of partners: One natural person
Capital (max/min): No minimum capital required
Shareholders and liability: Liability is unlimited
Limited Liability Company
Number of partners: Minimum 2. No limit. Under the Companies Act 1993, there must be one or more shareholders and directors (who can be the same person).
Capital (max/min): NZD 1
Shareholders and liability: Limited to the amount of share capital subscribed  
Number of partners: Minimum: 1 trustee
Capital (max/min): NZD 1
Shareholders and liability: Trust property
Limited Liability Partnership
Number of partners: Minimum: 2 with (one general, one limited); no maximum.
Capital (max/min): No minimum capital required
Shareholders and liability: Limited partners only liable to the extent of their contribution to the partnership. Joint and several liability for general partners.
The Competent Organisation
The administrative formalities must be carried out at the New Zealand Companies office.
Setting Up a Company New Zealand OECD
Procedures (number) 1.0 5.2
Time (days) 0.5 9.5

Source: Doing Business.

Business Setup Procedures
Consult Doing Business Website, to know about procedures to start a Business in New Zealand.
Companies Office

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The Active Population in Figures

Labour Force 2,756,6192,787,4942,848,217

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

Total activity rate 80.93%81.12%80.89%
Men activity rate 85.77%85.77%85.17%
Women activity rate 76.25%76.63%76.75%

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database


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Working Conditions

Legal Weekly Duration
40 hours a week. Flexible work arrangements, part-time work, job sharing, home-based work and paid parental leave all help workers in New Zealand to achieve a balance between work and personal lives.
Retirement Age
The National Superannuation Scheme entitles all to a pension at the age of 65. Residence requirements vary. There is no set age to retire and it is illegal to force retirement because of an employee’s age.
Working Contracts

All employers must offer their workers either an individual or collective Employment Agreement written in plain language. Employment Agreements should include:

  • Minimum wages for employees aged 18 or older
  • Minimum wages for employees aged 16-17
  • The same rate for the same job for male and female employees
  • Four weeks’ paid annual leave after 12 months in the job
  • 11 public holidays per year, when those fall on days of the week when an employee would otherwise work
  • after 12 months’ employment, up to 12 months’ parental leave
Employment agreements may also include conditions relating to duties and responsibilities, the term of the agreement, pay rates, pay day, hours of work, health and safety, company policy, redundancy, restraint of trade, etc.

There is no automatic right to the renewal or extension of an Employment agreement unless this is specifically stated in your agreement. As a general rule, a short-term agreement means just that. So it pays to be cautious about your expectations of continued employment, even though you may feel you have performed well in a temporary position.
For more information, see the employment contract act 1991 and the employment relations act 2000.
Labour Laws
Consult Doing Business Website, to obtain a summary of the labor regulations that apply to local entreprises.

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Cost of Labour

Minimum Wage
In 2021, the minimum wage is NZD 20 per hour according to the Ministry of  Business, Innovation and Employment of New Zealand.
Average Wage
In 2019, the average salary was NZD 30.58 per hour according to Stats NZ (latest data available).
Social Contributions
Social Security Contributions Paid By Employers: New Zealand does not have a social security system. Paying social security contributions in New Zealand is done through income tax (PAYE).
That being said, employers contribute 0.8% of wages to workers' compensation benefits, with rates that may vary depending on the employer's sector and the associated risks. An additional rate to motor vehicles applies for injuries caused by motor vehicles on public roads. For more information, please visit the Accident Insurance Corporation (ACC) website.
The employer needs to contribute at least 3% towards the KiwiSaver account if the employee is a KiwiSaver member.
Social Security Contributions Paid By Employees: Employees are entitled to participate in KiwiSaver (a savings scheme). The default contribution rate to KiwiSaver is 3% unless the employee decides to contribute more (up to 10%).
The average tax rate for non-work injury compensation is 1.24% of earned wages.

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Social Partners

Social Dialogue and Involvement of Social Partners
Employees can choose whether they wish to join a union. Jobs cannot be withheld on the basis of membership or non-membership of a trade union. Employees who choose to belong to a union are covered by the union’s collective agreement. Employees who choose not to belong to a trade union must negotiate an individual Employment agreement.

The most dramatic change in the organization of labor in New Zealand is arguably the individualization of the employment relationship, which is more pronounced among younger workers. The public sector is more strongly unionized than the private sector. There is growing evidence of a collapse of collective bargaining in the private sector; it is five times more common in the public sector. Union renewal did not occur when the Employment Relations Act replaced the Employment Contracts Act. Employers’ organizations have widened the range of their services from lobbying nationally and locally on behalf of business and industry to include legal, education and promotional activities. They are specifically addressing regional shortages of skilled labor, through the provision of schemes such as migrant worker placement. There is less need for institutional employer industrial representation, given that less than a quarter of New Zealand workers are covered by a collective agreement.

Labour Unions
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
Unionisation Rate
Trade union membership in New Zealand has substantially declined since the early 1990s, partly as a consequence of labor market de-regulation that saw individual employment contracts promoted and multi-employer contracts decline. In 1985, 43.5 percent of the total employed labor forces were union members. Union membership has recently risen for the fourth year in a row to 21.7 percent of wage and salary earners in 2005-06, only half of what it was in the mid-1990s.
Labour Regulation Bodies
Department of Labor
Business New Zealand
Employment Court of New Zealand

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Latest Update: May 2024