Employment Contracts in New Zealand

1. Minimum Requirements

Employment agreements may be either individual (“IEA”), where the parties are the employer and the employee, or collective (“CA”), where the parties are the employer and the union. In either case the agreement must be in writing.

2. Fixed Term and Casual

The ERA allows for fixed term agreements that specify that employment will end at the close of a specified date or period.

The courts have also recognised the validity of “casual employment”. This is a situation in which the employment agreement effectively provides for a series of fixed term contracts or periods of employment on an “as and when required basis”.

3. Trial Period

Probationary periods must be recorded in writing in the agreement and the law of unjustified dismissals continues to apply. An employee who completes a probationary period has a reasonable expectation of permanent employment.

Trial periods must be recorded in the employment agreement prior to the commencement of employment, be for no more than 90 days and be agreed with the employee.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in New Zealand, please contact Don Mackinnon, Partner at SBM Legal ( at
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