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When you’re not an “employee”: Differences between employees, contractors and volunteers


Who is an “employee”?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 6

The rules and processes in the Employment Relations Act apply to employers, employees, and unions.

An “employee” is any person, whatever their age, who’s employed by an employer to do any work for hire or reward under a contract of service. “Contract of service” is the legal term used to describe the type of contract you work under if you’re an employee; by contrast, independent contractors work under a “contract for services”.

The Act covers all employees, whether they are:

  • full-time or part-time
  • permanent, casual or fixed-term
  • adult or young employees.

You’re also an “employee” if you are:

  • a homeworker – that is, you work for somebody else in your own home (other than working on the house or on its fittings or furniture), or
  • intending to work – that is, you’ve accepted a job offer but haven’t yet started the work.

Who’s not an “employee”?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 6

You’re not an employee if:

  • you’re an independent contractor – in that case you’re covered by the general law of contract instead (see “Independent Contractors” in this chapter)
  • you’re a volunteer who doesn’t receive or expect to receive reward for their work (see “Volunteers)
  • you work in film production or video-game production (for example, actors, stunt performers and extras), unless your employment agreement says you’re an employee.

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Starting and leaving a job

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal information, advice and education about employment law issues.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Free phone: 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

For translated employment information go to www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/rights-and-responsibilities/minimum-rights-of-employees-translations/#minimum

Reporting migrant exploitation


Make a complaint to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment about migrant exploitation with this online form.

If you need help completing the form or would like to speak to an interpreter, call 0800 200 088 between 8:00am – 5:30pm, Monday to Friday. You will be connected with an interpreter after you say the name of the language you speak.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective


A nationwide organisation run by sex workers for sex workers. They provide information and services for people who are doing sex work or thinking about doing sex work.

Phone (04) 382 8791
Mobile and media inquiries: 027 496 0700
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz

Migrant worker organisations

Union Network of Migrants – UNEMIG


Part of FIRST Union

Phone: 0800 863477

Migrant Workers Association


Email: help@migrantworkers.org.nz

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