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Seasonal Employees and Agreements

Published October 31, 2017 (last updated on April 17, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Seasonal employment is a type of fixed-term agreement where the employment relationship ends after a specified time or a certain event has occurred.

These agreements are common in industries with a high demand for work during peak seasons, for example fruit picking, fishing, or retail during the holiday season. Seasonal employees are convenient for these scenarios where hiring permanent staff is unnecessary and too expensive, as there is only a demand for work for a specified period of time.

Due to the cyclical nature of seasonal work, it is common for the same employees to be re-hired at the start of each season.

What Rights and Responsibilities Do Seasonal Employees Have?

Although seasonal employment is temporary by definition, seasonal workers are entitled to the same minimum rights as permanent employees. For example, they must be paid at least the minimum adult working wage, and get a reasonable amount of rest breaks.

Employers must also keep in mind that awards and entitlements should be consistent with a permanent employee, and not be confused with those of a casual employee. A seasonal employee will be clear of the workload for the period they are employed, whereas casual employees are employed on an ad hoc basis and have no expectation of regular and ongoing work. Employers should be aware of the difference between the two.

What Should Be in a Seasonal Employment Contract?

A seasonal employment contract is similar to a fixed-term contract, where an employee is asked to work for a specified period of time. There is usually no need for either party to give notice when the employment is terminated.

Each agreement should specify the following conditions:

• When or how the employment agreement will end
• Why the employee is being hired for seasonal employment
• Wages and hours
• Public holiday rates
• Sick leave, holiday and bereavement leave
• Health and safety requirements
• Rest and meal breaks

It is important to note that a seasonal employee’s entitlements should be consistent with those of a permanent employee and not be confused with those of a casual employee. A seasonal employee will be clear of the workload for the period they are employed, whereas casual employees are employed on an ad hoc basis and have no expectation of regular and ongoing work. Therefore, a casual employment contract should not be used for seasonal employees.

Hiring Overseas Workers for Seasonal Jobs

If an employer cannot find New Zealand workers to fill jobs during peak seasons, they may be eligible to become a Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE).

As an RSE, there is an option to hire overseas workers to live and work in New Zealand during a peak season period. The initiative is popular among the horticulture and viticulture industry where New Zealand workers are hard to find.

To be eligible for the RSE program, employers must submit an application to New Zealand Immigration. In the application, employers must prove they have tried to recruit New Zealand workers and provide the following information:

• Region where there is a shortage of seasonal labour
• The number of workers needed
• A description of the available positions and tasks to be performed
• When and for how long each position is available

For advice on seasonal employees and agreements in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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