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

Mike Lucas Law

We are a small law firm based in the business hub of Manurewa, South Auckland, New Zealand.

We are delighted to have many clients in Manurewa and Manukau City, as well as in the wider Auckland region and New Zealand and abroad.

We think the best evidence of the value we add comes from our clients themselves. Our nomination and final position as First Runner up of the highly competitive and prestigious Regional Law Firm of the Year Award 2007 depended on our clients' endorsements of our work.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 269 2844

Attewell Clews & Cooper

Attewell Clews & Cooper is one of Whakatane’s largest and longest standing law firms. Our team embrace a culture of relaxed professionalism and share a common goal to provide high quality legal advice that is both practical and understandable. 

We are committed to being at the top of our game to ensure that our clients receive accurate and up-to-date legal advice.  We understand the world is online and use fore-front technology to achieve greater productivity and efficiency.  We encourage contact via email and text message, use an online legal library, have an intuitive practice management system and encourage our clients to pay online.

It is important to us that we understand your business and your unique individual (and family) situation. We work hard to provide sound legal advice that is tailored to your business industry and your personal goals. You will see us out and about in the community supporting local businesses, schools, community and sporting events. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 307 0570

Corcoran French

Corcoran French is a firm of Christchurch and North Canterbury lawyers with over 120 years experience in providing legal services to Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. We have offices in Christchurch City and Kaiapoi. We can also meet you at shared offices at Akaroa.

We welcome new clients and are committed to building strong long-term relationships that are rewarding for our clients.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 379 4660

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 and Jeff Allen.

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 57 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

Breaden McCardle Lawyers

Breaden McCardle Lawyers is the largest full service legal practice in the Kapiti Region.

We are here to help you and pride ourselves on providing practical, solutions based advice to clients in an approachable and straightforward manner.

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Innes Dean Tararua Law

Our history in the Manawatu and Tararua Districts dates back to 1884. With offices in Palmerston North and Pahiatua our firm stands on a long tradition of high standards and sound legal advice.

Our size means that every one of our clients are dealt with on a professional, yet personal basis.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 358 6075

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

Thomson Wilson

Thomson Wilson is a full service law firm based in Whangarei. We’ve been trusted lawyers for the Northland community and beyond for 75 years.

We act for individuals and families, businesses, public sector and other organisations. Whether you need no-fuss advice on a simple matter, or a team of legal experts. 

Our staff provide advice in most areas of the law, including property law, business law, trusts and estates, separation and divorce, resource management, criminal law and more.

We also offer expertise in specialist areas such as Maori land, local government law, farming and forestry.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 430 4380

Wilkinson Rodgers Lawyers

Our specialists work together to provide clients with the full range of advice they need to achieve their desired results. If you're looking for specialist knowledge and advice, are a company or individual we can help you by making it easier for you to achieve your objectives.

Our area of expertise include, but not limited to;

  • Commercial
  • Community
  • Family Law
  • Home, Asset & Employment
  • Wills & Estates

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 477 9844

Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd

Incorporating traditional values and a fresh perspective, Sheddan Pritchard Law is here to assist you with all your legal needs. 

Our friendly and team-driven approach underpins our firm’s values, recognising the importance of putting people first and allows us to connect and nurture professional relationships with new and existing clients within our local community of Gore, as well as throughout New Zealand and extending overseas.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 209 0030

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

Allen Needham & Co Ltd

Sir Stephen Allen, founder of the firm, was admitted to the bar on the 7th of December 1906 and subsequently set up practice in the building illustrated below on the present site of our offices at 52 Canada Street, Morrinsville on the 1st of January 1907.

Mr Arthur Needham was admitted to the bar on the 1st of March 1923 and Mr R. B. Morton on the 24th of November 1924. They joined Sir Stephen in partnership under the name of Allen, Needham & Morton.

The firm was subsequently called Allen, Needham, Sanford & Lang when the partners of the firm were John Needham (son of Arthur Needham, and father of Rod Needham, a present partner), Howard Sanford, Fred Lang and Graeme Ashmore.

Graeme Ashmore left the firm in 1972 and Howard Sanford retired as a partner in 1974 when Greg McDonnell became a partner with John Needham and Fred Lang.

The firm changed its name to Allen, Needham & Co. in 1986 when new partners Rod Needham and Bob Craven joined the firm. In December 2010 the firm became an incorporated company.

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 889 5062

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