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

Working for a labour-hire agency: “Triangular employment”

Protections for employees of labour-hire companies

A common work arrangement these days is for a worker to be employed by a temporary employment agency – often also called a labour-hire agency – and to be hired out short-term to other employers.

It’s called “triangular” employment because there are three parts to the arrangement:

  • you the worker, who’s employed by
  • the labour-hire agency, who hires you out to
  • another company (the “host business”), such as a construction company.

Your employment contract is with the labour-hire agency, not the construction company, so the agency is legally your employer. But even so, while you’re hired out you’ll be working under the immediate supervision of the other business, the agency’s client.

If something goes wrong while you’re working for the other firm, the law says that you can take a personal grievance against them even though technically they’re not your employer (because the agency is your employer).

Who’s who: “Controlling third parties”

The law calls the host business a “controlling third party” because they’re the third part of the triangle along with you and the agency who employs you, and because they in fact control your day-to-day work, even though they’re not legally your employer.

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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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