PUBLICATIONS | 22 November 2013

Keeping it casual – Recent Judicial Guidance on casual employment

“Casual employment” is a concept which is often misunderstood by employers and employees alike. Broadly speaking, casual employment is undertaken when an employee is employed to work on an “as and when required” basis by an employer. The work is typically for a specific purpose over a short period of time. When the work is completed, the employment ends and there is no expectation by either party of ongoing or regular employment in the future.

Casual employment is often attractive to employers because it provides them with a high degree of flexibility to meet changing labour demands without any ongoing employer obligations. Casual employment may be attractive to employees who are able to demand higher rates of pay for the provision of their services on a casual or irregular basis. Casual employment may also be attractive to employees who seek autonomy over the work they are to perform.

Casual employment can, however, be open to abuse by employers. Some employers attempt to use a casual employment relationship to avoid their obligations to an employee. Casual employment relationships are fertile grounds for employee personal grievance claims. Casual employees often raise grievances claiming that the true nature of their employment is, or was, permanent as opposed to casual.

The recent Employment Court case of Baker v St John Central Regional Trust Board [2013] NZEmpC 34 considers whether a casual employment relationship remained casual as it evolved over time and the impact of the employer’s roster on the nature of the casual employment relationship...