An individual employment agreement sets out all of the terms and conditions of your employment.  There are several different types of employment; full time, part-time, permanent, fixed term, and casual.  Often employees on casual contracts are unclear about their rights and entitlements given that they have no set hours and only work when required.  Likewise, employers can also be unsure as to what their obligations are in terms of a causal employee’s leave and holiday entitlements as casual employees can sometimes go days or weeks without receiving any work.

Annual holidays

Most employees are entitled to four weeks of annual leave under the Holidays Act 2003.  Casual workers are also entitled to four weeks annual holidays after they have worked for one year.  Because casual employees have no clear work pattern, and their hours of work cannot be anticipated, it is often impractical for an employer to provide casual employees with four weeks of annual holidays.

Instead, employers often choose to top up an employee’s regular wages with 8 per cent of their weekly earnings as annual holiday pay.  This is known as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ arrangement, and should be included in the employee’s employment agreement.  The employer should pay the 8 per cent annual holiday payment each pay day and it should be recorded separately from the employee’s wages on their pay slip.

Sick Leave and Bereavement Leave

Casual employees can also be entitled to sick leave and bereavement leave in some instances.  To qualify for sick leave and bereavement leave, casual employees must have been working for the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours per week, including at least one hour per week or 40 hours per month, for at least six months.

If a casual employee qualifies for sick leave, they will be entitled to 5 days leave annually.  If you are sick but have not been working for six months, then you can still ask your employer for annual leave or take unpaid leave.

If a causal employee qualifies for bereavement leave, they will be entitled to three days leave on the death of their partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or their partner’s parent.  For the death of any other person, the employee can be entitled to one day of bereavement leave if the employer is satisfied that the employee is ‘suffering a bereavement’.

Pay for sick leave and bereavement leave will be at the employee’s usual rate which they would ordinarily be paid on the day leave is taken.

What can I do if my rights and entitlements are not being met?

If an employer is not adhering to your rights, the best thing you can do is discuss it directly with your employer.  Parties in an employment relationship have an obligation to deal with each in good faith.  If this does not result in a resolution, you could ask a Labour Inspector to investigation or request mediation with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

To read more about different types of employees, obligations of good faith, or mediation click on the links. 




Jaenine Badenhorst
Associate Lawyer