Casual Employment Minimum Rights and Entitlements

Date posted: 18 January 2010

This article is from the Department of Labour.

All employees have minimum rights and entitlements - including casual employees.

What is casual employment?
Usually this is employment “as and when” required, with no guarantee of set hours or continuation of employment.  In practice, some employees who are described as “casual”, may in fact have an ongoing employment relationship with an employer.

Employment agreements
All employees are required to have written employment agreements under the Employment Relations Act, and this includes casual employees. The employment agreement should set out the hours and place of work, as well as any other agreed terms and conditions.

To help create an employment agreement you can use our Employment Agreement Builder.

Annual holidays
Casual employees are entitled to paid annual holidays. How these are calculated depends on the arrangement between you and your employee.

Many employees who are described as “casual” are actually part-time employees with established employment patterns. These employees are entitled to at least four weeks’ annual holidays.

Pay as you go

For some employees it is not practicable to provide them with four weeks’ annual holidays, this tends to be workers who are called in on a strictly as needed basis and where the work is entirely unpredictable.

If this is the case, you may agree with your employee to pay 8% of their gross wages as annual holiday pay.

This arrangement must be included in the employment agreement, and the 8% annual holiday pay should appear as a separate and identifiable amount on the employee's payslip, wage and time records.

At the end of the employment relationship, no additional pay for annual holidays is due.

If you have an arrangement like this, it is a good idea to keep it under review to see whether a regular cycle of work has developed. If this occurs, you and your employee should agree to alter the employment agreement so that the 8% payment for holiday pay is replaced by an entitlement to four weeks’ paid annual holidays. After 12 months of continuous employment, the employee will become entitled to four weeks’ annual holidays.

For more information on annual holidays and pay-as-you-go arrangements, please see:

Public holidays
Employees are entitled to at least time and a half if they work on a public holiday. It doesn't matter whether they are paid on a salary, wage, piece rate, or commission basis.

If an employee normally works on the day that the public holiday falls, they are also entitled to an alternative holiday on pay (previously known as a day in lieu). 

For more information on public holidays click here

To help work out entitlements under the Holidays Act, you can use our Holidays On-Line Tool.

Sick leave and bereavement leave
Most employees are entitled to sick and bereavement leave whether they are full- or part-time, permanent or fixed-term employees, providing that they have completed six months' continuous employment.  These qualifying criteria generally apply to permanent employees.

Under the Holidays Act, once an employee becomes eligible for sick and bereavement leave, they receive:

  • five days’ paid sick leave for every 12 month period 
  • three days’ paid bereavement leave in the event of the death of an immediate family member 
  • one day of paid bereavement leave in the event of a death outside the immediate family that causes an employee to suffer a bereavement, and the employer accepts that the employee has suffered a bereavement.

The Holidays Act also provides sick and bereavement leave entitlements after six months to employees whose employment is not continuous if, during those six months, they have worked for the employer for:

  • an average of at least 10 hours per week, including 
  • at least one hour per week or 40 hours per month.

For more information on sick and bereavement leave, please click here.

Ending an Employment Relationship
To dismiss a casual employee, you must follow the same dismissal procedures as for any other employee.  This includes having reasonable grounds for dismissal, discussing this with the employee and allowing reasonable opportunity for the employee to respond.

For more information on ending an employment relationship visit www.ers.dol.govt.nz