The Employment Relations Authority has dismissed an employee’s personal grievance claim of unjustified disadvantage and unjustified dismissal after finding that his employment as a casual worker had ended.

The employee was employed under a casual individual employment agreement. He worked four days a week and some Saturdays when extra staff were required.

The employee believed that these working hours meant he was employed on a permanent part-time basis. He had also discussed a possible change in his employment status with his employer. However, this change was never reflected in his individual employment agreement. 

When New Zealand went into lockdown in March 2020, the company severely decreased the amount of available working hours for employees. The employee received a wage subsidy based on his casual working hours.

Once the company was able to operate, the employer offered work to the employee, which he declined. The employee again declined work weeks later, due to concerns regarding his lockdown “bubble”.

A few weeks later, the employer advised the employee that all casual work was being put on hold.

The employee brought a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal and disadvantage, seeking wage arrears on the basis that he held the status of a permanent employee.

The Authority held that the employee was employed on a casual basis. This was reflected in the type of work he did and was outlined in his employment agreement. The irregular work hours and the employee’s authority to decline work also pointed towards casual employment, rather than a permanent employment position.

The Authority held that because of the casual nature of the position, and the fact that the employee had declined work on multiple occasions, the employer was entitled to end his casual employment.

The Authority found that this termination was in line with the employee’s casual employment contract, and that the employee had not become permanent throughout his employment.  The employee therefore could not have been unjustifiably disadvantaged or dismissed and was not entitled to any compensation.

It is important to be aware of your rights and obligations as an employee. If you are confused about these, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors