Unemployment benefit

Getting money when you lose your job

Unemployment benefit

Some 5.6 per cent of the working population is registered as unemployed in New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are entitled to apply for unemployment benefit (or ‘ dole’) and no history of contributions or tax deductions is required to make a claim. However, newcomers must wait 12 months before they can apply for unemployment benefit, and those who resign from their jobs or are dismissed must wait 13 weeks before they can receive benefits.

The New Zealand unemployment benefit service is operated by Work and Income, the arm of the Department of Labour that provides a job-finding (or ‘ vacancy-filling’) service to employees and employers.

A much tougher approach than in the past is being taken regarding unemployment benefit, and claimants are required to register with Work and Income and make a ‘Job Seeker Agreement’ under which they’re obliged to look for full-time work or training and take a suitable job if offered one. Claimants are also required to have regular meetings to determine what they’re doing to find work (and to ensure that they aren’t working while claiming benefit!).

Those who fail to meet their obligations without a good reason may have their benefit suspended. On the third failure, benefit may be stopped for 13 weeks. There are exceptions for those with children under 14 or those caring for a disabled or dependant relative. The benefit is paid at a flat rate irrespective of your previous income, although there are variations depending on your age and family status, and you also may be eligible for other benefits. Rates on or after 1st April 2005 were as follows:


Gross Weekly Rate ($)

Single under 20, living at home


Single under 20, living away from home


Single, 20 to 24


Single, 25 or over


Married couple (each)


Single parent


Further reading

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