Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

Casual or fixed-term employment? Be careful

Published: 12th December 2017

Author: Sarah Heald, Dorrington Poole

The summer holiday period often sees a mix of casual and fixed-term employees working on the farm. You must have a written employment agreement in place from the outset for both types of employees. The consequences of getting it wrong can be expensive as you will see from a recent case below.

Farm hand, Phil Stewart, had been employed on a temporary basis for two weeks, and the job was then renewed for two more periods of two weeks. When his employers, David Lee-Jones and Cathy Douglas, let him go Mr Stewart claimed unjustified dismissal.

Mr Stewart had originally claimed he had been given a permanent job. He had signed a casual employment agreement but said he did not notice it was a casual agreement.

The Employment Relations Authority endeavoured to find the true nature of the employment relationship.

If the agreement had been casual then Mr Stewart could have had no expectation of ongoing employment. If it was not casual, the employment relationship must have been either for a fixed term or ongoing. Mr Lee-Jones gave evidence that the job was always temporary. When faced with the evidence of his ex-girlfriend, Mr Stewart accepted he had known the arrangement was temporary while his employers looked for a permanent farm employee. He said he thought his temporary job should have been considered a trial for the permanent position. The Authority considered that, on this basis, the job was not intended to be ongoing.

In order for a job to be a valid fixed-term arrangement, there must be a written employment agreement specifying the way the employment will end and the reasons for ending the employment that way, in accordance with s66 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. If there is failure to comply, the employer cannot rely on the fixed-term nature of the agreement to bring it to an end. The agreement signed by the parties in this particular case contained no such clauses.

In considering whether the arrangement was casual or fixed-term the Authority reviewed case law. While both are temporary in nature, casual employment has irregular and short engagements whereas fixed-term employment has set hours and days of work. Fixed-term work must relate to a specified project or situation such as coverage for parental leave.

In this case, while Mr Stewart’s position was described as casual, it bore little relation to that type of employment arrangement described on page 4. Each engagement was for two weeks for the purpose of filling in while a permanent worker was found; that indicated it was something other than a casual job. That Mr Stewart referred to the position as ‘temporary’ also indicated it was of a fixed term nature.

The Authority concluded the position was a fixed-term one but, because the agreement did not comply with s66 of the Act, the dismissal was unjustified. In this case no compensation was awarded because Mr Stewart gave little evidence to support such a claim. As well, the Authority found it difficult to find how Mr Stewart would have been hurt or humiliated by the occurrence of an event he accepted he knew was both intended and coming.

The Authority ordered Mr Lee Jones and Ms Douglas to pay $7,705 gross in lost wages.
As you can see, this area of employment law is tricky. If you need help with your employment agreements, please give us a call at the outset.


[1]    Stewart v Lee-Jones and Douglas [2017] NZERA Wellington 100, 6 October 2017

 

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Daniel Overton & Goulding

We offer a wide range of legal services and advice to our clients who come to us with a number of different legal issues. In all instances we strive to get our clients the best advice and outcome. Come to our experienced and knowledgeable team about any legal issue and if we cannot find the answer we will be able to get you the right expert who will get you the right advice, and get you the best result. This is a vital part of our client care.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 6222 222

Jackson Reeves Lawyers

Jackson Reeves is a long established law firm that has been providing quality legal services in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty region for over 60 years. We have proven expertise in business and personal law and deliver high calibre legal advice and solutions that work for you.

Choosing a law firm is not always an easy decision but you can take comfort in the knowledge that Jackson Reeves take a client focussed approach, providing specialist and practical legal services. Old fashioned virtues, like integrity, transparency and trust are of importance to us and we value quality, relationships and diversity.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 578 2129

RSM Law

RSM Law is considered one of the most client focused law firms in South Canterbury. Established in 1883, the firm has played an integral part in the growth and development of South Canterbury, and beyond.

RSM Law's expertise covers all areas of the law, with particular emphasis on business law (including company law, small business and compliance); property law (rural and commercial property, and home buying and selling); litigation; resource management issues,(Carbon Accounting and Emissions Trading) estate planning, wills and trusts; infrastructure and syndication; and personal legal services.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 687 9777

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

NZ LAW Limited

NZ LAW Limited is an association of independent legal practices with member firms located throughout New Zealand. There are currently 53 member firms practising in a wide range of legal disciplines ranging from business law, home buying and selling, immigration law and intellectual property to aviation law and viticulture.

The group was established in 1992 when about five law firms met in Auckland to find a way to benefit their clients by replicating the conviviality and the sharing of ideas and expertise that occurs in larger law firms, but still be able to retain client confidentiality and their own independence.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 835 5299

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Horsley Christie

Horsley Christie is a successful law firm based in Whanganui which offers a diverse range of legal services to the Whanganui Region and beyond and has done for over 100 years.

When you deal with Horsley Christie you do so in the knowledge that the firm is one of many law practices nationwide who are members of NZ LAW.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 349 0090

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Law North Limited

We pride ourselves on being a "general store" for most legal issues but also have several in-house experts in specialised areas including trusts, relationship property, business and property law.  No matter what your issue is - whether you are looking for trusted legal advisers to steer you through life, or you have a one-off problem to sort out - we would be pleased to help.

Law North Ltd provides a broad range of legal services across the Far North district from our base in Kerikeri.   We have operated in the area for over 100 years and have a long-standing history of providing legal services to a diverse client base, including businesses and private clients.   Our directors and their families have been part of the Bay of Islands community for several generations and remain committed to the area and its people.  We often call upon strong local knowledge to resolve issues for clients whilst remaining vigilant about client confidentiality.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 407 7099

Berry & Co

Berry & Co is a long established, well respected Otago law firm providing a broad range of legal services for our business and personal clients.

We enjoy working closely with our clients, we listen and then we provide practical commonsense legal advice that achieves the outcome that is desired. We have a reputation for obtaining excellent results.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 433 0007

Cruickshank Pryde

We are proud to provide a full suite of legal services to the regions of Southland and Central Otago. With our offices, located in Invercargill, Gore and Queenstown, equipped with the latest modern technology, we can service wider New Zealand and international clients with ease. Our areas of expertise include commercial, rural, business, employment, family, criminal, property, resource management and estate planning law.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 214 4069

RMY Legal

Having been a cornerstone in the New Plymouth and Taranaki legal community since the 1930s we offer in-depth knowledge coupled with legal expertise and always put the needs of you and your business at the heart of what we do.

Not only do we offer a first class service to clients throughout Taranaki, we are passionate about what we do and our success stems from delivering advice in clear and understandable terms.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 769 8080

Le Pine & Co

Le Pine & Co is the largest provider of legal services in the Taupo District, having provided legal services in the Taupo District and the Central North Island since 1953. Le Pine & Co is a full service firm, providing legal services in most areas of the law. The Le Pine & Co team offer a variety of specialised services from offices in Taupo, Putaruru and Turangi. The team are solution focused and will help unravel the mysteries of the law for you.

Le Pine & Co enjoys supporting and contributing to the Taupo community and many of its organisations. Building bike trails with Bike Taupo, setting up trusts for inspiring local projects, supporting the youth of Taupo - the team at Le Pine & Co gets involved in its community in a wide variety of ways. 

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 378 5030

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Greg Kelly Law Limited is a boutique Wellington law firm specialising in trust and elder law. Our practice areas are wills, estates and trusts.

We act for private and institutional clients establishing and administering trusts, wills and estates. We also provide quality advice to legal and accounting firms in New Zealand and overseas. In particular, we can assist with legal opinions, obtaining and resealing probate, and estate and trust litigation.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 499 5193

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited