The combination of how Xero Payroll is designed, and the complexity of Annual Leave law in New Zealand means we are often fixing up Annual Leave errors in Xero Payroll. Problems can arise with incorrect Annual Leave balances for a number of reasons, but one that we see quite often is where there are part-time staff on flexible hours.
The risk here is that you may be overpaying Annual Leave entitlements, or even worse underpaying them. The way NZ legislation is, underpaying easily happens, but is also a huge liability risk as there are big penalties if it ever comes to light.
What is a week’s Annual Leave?
Annual Leave in New Zealand law is expressed in Weeks/Days.
Perhaps it’s written in the employment agreement, perhaps it’s not. Sometimes it’s a case of sitting down together and deciding what a week’s leave will be. As an example, if the employee works part time on Tues/ Wed/ Thur, then perhaps a week’s leave is those three days. Or if they work different days every week, perhaps it’s “any three days”. There is no definite rule on this – you just have to decide what’s practical. Sometimes, what constitutes a “Week” can only be defined at the time Annual Leave is being taken, as the employee might have moving shifts or changing hours.
BUT – when confirming this, don’t get sidelined with trying to work out how many hours the week represents or how much you will pay for the leave taken as this is a completely separate question.
How does Annual Leave get represented in Xero?
Xero Payroll software has it’s own way of deciding how to record the amount of Annual Leave that an employee is due. All it does is look at what’s in the employment tab as standard hours. That’s it.
It’s not possible to enter in Annual Leave entitlements from the Leave Tab of Xero. You enter this in through the Employment Tab, by putting in standard hours. Then, when it’s time for the Annual Leave to be entered into the employee record (usually after 12 months of employment), Xero just looks at the standard hours, and makes a calculation. Its almost always – Hours Per Day x Days per Week x 4 weeks and it makes the entry automatically.
A very common question we get asked is “but my employee has flexible and changing hours – how many hours / days per week do I put in as Standard Hours?”
Also, Xero Payroll Annual Leave is expressed in hours, and if the number of hours to enter is not clear, read on as most likely it will be best represented by Minimum Hours.
In these types of situations, Xero Payroll generally recommends Minimum Hours to be put into the Employment tab, for it to calculate correctly.
This doesn’t mean your employee will only get paid Annual Leave based on the Minimum Hours. But it does mean you won’t be overpaying Annual Leave, which would happen if you entered in Standard Hours, and the employee ended up averaging less than those Standard Hours.
Are you Recording and paying Annual Leave correctly?
So here’s the trick. You are representing the Annual Leave due to your employee by Minimum Hours and Xero will raise the Hourly Rate if the employee has worked on average more than the minimum hours.
Here’s an example:
You have an employee who works part time flexible hours. Some weeks they work 30 hours over 4 days, other weeks they work 10 hours over 2 days, some weeks they don’t work. It just changes every week. You might look at their work history and figure they have worked an average of 15 hours a week and work is increasing so you are confident they will work at least 15 hours a week overall going forward for the foreseeable future.
In the Employment Tab for the employee you could enter in 5 days a week, 3 hours a day as their standard hours.
When Xero allocates their Annual Leave, the employee will be allocated 15hrs x 4 weeks = 60 hours.
Then down the track the employee wants to take a weeks’ leave. Xero needs to record two parts correctly. Firstly, how much leave they are taking so that the balance of hours due is correct. Secondly, how much the employee gets paid for the week they are taking.
Firstly – the balance of leave hours
Don’t worry about how many hours or days or any patterns of work the employee has been doing lately. Just record the number of hours of leave taken based on the minimum hours recorded in Xero. So, if the employee wants to be off for a week, then record this as 15 hours – even if they have been working an average of 30 hours in the weeks prior. After the week is taken, the balance will correctly show as 45 hours remaining (3 weeks).
Same process if the employee wants to take 2 days off – record this as 6 hours (2 x 3hrs as per minimum hours) even if they would have worked more or less on those two days. After the two days are taken, the balance will correctly show as 54 hours remaining.
Secondly – how much the employee gets paid for the hours of leave being taken
New Zealand legislation requires that the amount you pay for Annual Leave is based on the higher of the last 4 weeks, or the last 52 weeks average paid. (There are some finer points to this but we won’t worry about those right now). So, when you are paying 1 weeks Annual Leave, it will be the higher of either the last 4 weeks or the last 52 weeks average pay – calculated using the dates immediately prior to when the Annual Leave is being taken.
Xero Payroll will work this out for you. If you have recorded the Annual Leave as 15 hours being taken, Xero knows that’s “A Week” according to what’s in the Employment Tab. It will then look back at what’s been paid as an average from last 4 or 52 weeks, and this will be the amount it will calculate to pay out. You will see it when the Annual Leave amount appears on the Payslip – there is a blue toggle where you choose to pay either the normal hourly rate (say $25) or the Average rate. The Average rate is the correct one in this example.
Xero will increase the Average rate if your employee has worked more than the minimum hours. For this example, with the Standard Hours recorded as 15 in Xero, if the employee had actually worked 30 hours a week on average over the past 4 weeks, then their Annual Leave payout rate would double. So instead of being paid 15 hours x say $25 an hour as their normal rate of pay, they would be paid 15 hours x $50 an hour.
You can represent minimum hours with as little as 5 hours a week or even less and as long as you record leave taken based on that proportion, then the balance will be correct. And as long as you toggle to allow Xero Payroll to increase the hourly rate being paid, you will be paying your employees correctly.
Other situations where we often find errors
There are lots of other situations and questions that arise where a sort out is needed:
- It’s been more than a year, and no Standard Hours were entered, so there is no Annual Leave allocated, but leave has been taken so there is a negative leave balance
- It’s been more than a year, but leave has been paid out on every pay
- Standard Hours entered are higher than the average being worked
- The Hours being worked have changed, so the Annual Leave balance needs adjusting but unsure how much to adjust
- Part-time flexible employees have been paid their normal hourly rate when they take leave, instead of a rate based on average earnings
- Hours are part-time/regular, but have changed at some time and the Annual Leave balance has not been adjusted
IF you haven’t entered in any standard hours per day and days per week in the Employment tab, then Xero assumes the employee is Casual, and Annual Leave is not entered in. This is another issue which I’ll write about another time.