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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
  • you’re a volunteer who doesn’t receive or expect to receive reward for their work
  • 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 you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

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

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Starting a job: www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/
Leaving a job: www.employment.govt.nz/ending-employment/

Te Kauae Kaimahi/
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimahi 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.

Website: www.union.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective is 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.

Website: www.nzpc.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: 04 382 8791
Instagram: www.instagram.com/_nzpc/

Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG)

UNEMIG or Union Network of Migrants is an association of migrant workers within FIRST Union.

Website: www.unemig.org.nz
Email: unemig@firstunion.org.nz 
Phone: 0800 863 477

Migrant Workers Association

The Migrant Workers Association NZ fights for migrant workers’ rights and against injustice and exploitation in the workplace.

Website: migrantworkers.org.nz
Email: help@migrantworkers.org.nz
Phone: 0800 863 477
Facebook: www.facebook.com/migrantworkersassociationaotearoa/

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