Private Law Firms Fail to Meet Pay Expectations for Legal Workers in New Zealand

Private Law Firms Fail to Meet Pay Expectations for Legal Workers in New Zealand

Are NZ Law Firms Exploiting Staffers with Uncompensated Overtime?

Major law firms have a stark difference in attitude towards working conditions for legal staff, according to an informal review of the firms by NZ Herald writer Sasha Borissenko.

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The article follows the report released by the Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union which recorded the average legal staffer in New Zealand is effectively working a day a week without pay.

The union conducted a survey of 307 legal workers, finding that 78 percent of them worked beyond their contracted hours without compensation with only five percent of respondents had paid overtime included in their employment contracts.

Additionally, 38 percent of respondents worked for firms that provided time off in lieu, and the number of legal workers effectively working for less than the minimum wage increased by 50 percent in 2022.

The survey also revealed that median salaries for junior lawyers either fell or adjusted to inflation, and nearly half of the respondents’ employers took no action to address the rising cost of living. The report suggests that working from home, which became more common during the pandemic, may have contributed to increased unpaid overtime.

According to the report lawyers and other legal workers at private law firms were least satisfeid with their overall pay and working conditions.

Several law firms, including Bell Gully, Buddle Findlay, Dentons Kensington Swan, Russell McVeagh, and Simpson Grierson, responded to inquiries about their policies with some mentioning that they provided time off in lieu, flexible working conditions, and acknowledgement of overtime through additional benefits or compensation.

However, not all firms were accredited as living wage employers, although some had implemented measures to pay at or above the living wage.

Various initiatives were mentioned to support mental health and well-being, such as engagement surveys, wellness allowances, discounted insurance and gym memberships, and flexible and remote working options.

Legal workers in New Zealand are unimpressed with their working and pay conditions, according to a survey from a legal workers' union
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