Is Your casual Employee Truly Casual?

It’s important that employers and employees are clear as to whether an employee is a casual or permanent employee.

Many employers employ people who they consider to be “casual employees”.  However, there can be a fine line between permanent and casual employment.  It is very common for an employee to start work on a casual basis but for that work to morph over time to being more permanent.  

It is important that employers and employees understand the nature of their employment relationship. Because casual employment is generally unpredictable and uncertain, the personal grievance procedures that are available under the Employment Relations Act 2000 will not apply to the same extent as they would for a permanent employee.  This means that if you attempt to terminate the employment of a casual employee who is not truly casual without using the correct procedures, you run the risk of that employee raising a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal, among other things.

So how do you work out whether your employee is a casual or permanent employee?

Casual employment is just that – intermittent, with no fixed hours or days of work. A casual employee is free to say they are not available to work a particular shift or day, just as their employer can choose not to call on them to be available for work. The relationship between the parties is the crucial test – not what may be set out in the Employment Agreement.

Other characteristics of casual employment recognised by the Employment Court are:

  • Engagement for short periods of time for specific purposes.
  • A lack of regular work pattern.
  • The employment is dependent upon the availability of work demands.
  • There is no guarantee of work from one week to the next.
  • The employment is on a “as needed” basis.

To increase the likelihood that your casual employees would be deemed truly casual by the Court, there are a number of clauses that can be included and/or modified in their employment agreements.  If you would like us to review and amend your existing employment agreements, you can get in touch with us at or  

Sue Garmonsway

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