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Types of employee

There are several types of employee.

Permanent employees (full or part-time)

These are the most common type of employee. Permanent employees have the full set of employment rights and responsibilities.

Employees have to meet certain criteria to qualify for some employment entitlements, such as parental leave, parental leave payments, annual holidays, sick leave and bereavement leave. There may be small differences between full-time or part-time employees because of their work patterns.

Fixed-term employees (full or part-time)

A fixed-term (temporary) employee’s employment will end on a specified date or when a particular event occurs. A fixed-term employee might be someone who is brought in to replace another employee on parental leave, to cover a seasonal peak or to complete a project. This includes people working in triangular employment situations.

There must be a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for the fixed term and the employee must be told about this reason.

Seasonal employees

Seasonal employment is generally a type of fixed-term employment where the employment agreement says that the work will finish at the end of the season. It’s commonly used in the fruit, vegetable, fishing and meat industries, for example, in a job picking apples when they ripen, after the work is completed (when all the apples are picked) the employer doesn’t need the workers and the fixed term ends. In some situations, seasonal employment can become a rolling fixed-term employment in which the employee is re-hired at the start of every season.

Triangular employment situations

Sometimes employees work in a triangular employment situation. This is where someone is employed by one employer (the agency), but is working under another business or organisation that directs or controls their day-to-day work (controlling third party). It is ‘triangular’ because there are three parties to the arrangement, with each party having distinct relationships with one another. The three parties are: the employer, employee, and the third party.

Common situations where triangular employment happens include:

  • An employee is employed by a recruitment or employment agency, and is sent on work assignments to another organisation, sometimes this is called labour-for-hire or “temping”.
  • An employee of a government department or other employer is placed on a secondment for a fixed time period with another business or host organisation.

In the past employees in a triangular employment situation could only raise personal grievances against the agency that employed them, even if the mistreatment was committed by the controlling third party. With the new amendment in the Employment Relations Act 2000, employees in triangular employment situations can raise personal grievance against both the employer (the agency) and the third party (controlling third party).

Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Act 2019

Part-time and full-time employees

Whether you’re considered to be part-time or full-time depends on how many hours you have to work. Employment legislation doesn’t define what full-time or part-time work is, but full-time work is often considered to be around 35 to 40 hours a week.

For statistical purposes, Statistics New Zealand (external link) defines full-time as working 30 hours or more per week. You have exactly the same employment rights and responsibilities if you’re a part-time or full-time employee.

A full-time permanent employee might be someone working 9am to 5pm, five days a week. An example of a part-time permanent employee is someone who regularly works the same 3 days a week for eight hours each day, for a total of 24 hours a week.

Casual employees

‘Casual employee’ isn’t defined in employment legislation, but the term is usually used to refer to a situation where the employee has no guaranteed hours of work, no regular pattern of work, and no ongoing expectation of employment. The employer doesn’t have to offer work to the employee, and the employee doesn’t have to accept work if it’s offered. The employee works as and when it suits both them and the employer. This can sometimes happen because it’s hard for the employer to predict when the work needs to be done, or when the work needs to be done quickly. Each time the employee accepts an offer of work it is treated as a new period of employment.

If you are employed to do casual work, the arrangement must be made clear in your employment agreement.

Employment rights and responsibilities also apply to casual employees, but the way in which annual holidays, sick and bereavement leave are applied can vary for these employees.

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Page last revised: 18 October 2022

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