Engaging extra staff
15 November 2022
Engaging extra staff
As harvest starts to get into swing, growers will be expanding their workforces with pickers, packers or other casual workers. Also, chances are that some of these people will be from overseas and may not be aware of their employment rights or your responsibilities as an employer.
The following information has been put together to help employers come up to speed on their legal obligations when it comes to engaging extra staff.
Ensuring employees have the right to work
If you wish to employ someone who is not a New Zealand citizen, you should first check their immigration status to see whether they have the right to work here, the conditions of their visas, and the expiry date. You can do this using VisaView – an online system for employers provided by New Zealand Immigration.
You can also use the system to confirm New Zealand passport information and citizenship.
Remember, casual employees have employment rights just as permanent employees do. These relate to such things as the terms of their employment, how they may be dismissed, and holiday and sick leave entitlements. Here is a summary of your obligations as an employer:
- An employer must provide an employee with a written copy of their individual employment agreement. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $1,000 per employee.
- Minimum rights (such as the minimum wage and annual holidays) are legal requirements and apply even if they are not in the employment agreement. Your employment agreement cannot reduce these or trade them off for other things.
- Employers are required to keep a copy of the employment agreement (or the current signed terms and conditions of employment). The employer must keep an 'intended agreement' even if the employee has not signed it. Employees are entitled to a copy of their agreement on request.
- An employment agreement can contain any terms and conditions that the employee and employer have agreed to, for example, the notice period required for resignation and termination, a trial period provision, an availability provision, whether the employee can be made to work on a public holiday, or an annual closedown.
- Employers need to think carefully about the needs of the business before they draft an employment agreement. For example, if there is a possibility that they may need to cancel an employee’s shift, then the reasonable notice period required to cancel the shift and the reasonable compensation payable if the employer cannot give this notice period needs to be in the employment agreement.
- Employers who hold Recognised Seasonal Employer status with Immigration New Zealand will need to meet additional requirements.
If you are unsure of your obligations, and the rights and responsibilities of casual workers, be sure to check out the information on the Employment New Zealand website:
A recent Employment Relations Authority determination has highlighted the need for employers to ensure that holiday pay is applied correctly, including for people with unpredictable work patterns.