The Difference Between Employees and Self-employed Contractors in New Zealand


When it comes to work arrangements, there are two primary categories: employees and self-employed contractors. While both involve providing services to a business or individual for pay, there are significant differences between these two types of work relationships. Understanding these distinctions is crucial, as they can have a significant impact on the rights, responsibilities, and benefits of those involved. In this article, we will explore the key differences between employees and self-employed contractors, as well as the legal tests used to determine the true nature of a working relationship. Whether you are an employer or a worker, this information can help you make informed decisions about your employment status and obligations.

It is important to determine whether you are an employee or a contractor, as it has implications for your rights and obligations. Both employees and contractors are subject to health and safety regulations.

If you’re a subcontractor, you may assume that you’re covered by the insurance policies of the primary contractor you work with. However, this may not always be the case, and it’s important to have your own subcontractor insurance to ensure that you’re fully protected. Subcontractor insurance can cover you against property damage, injuries, and other risks associated with your work.

An employee is an individual who is hired under a contract of services and is guaranteed essential employment rights such as a signed employment agreement, holiday and leave entitlements, and at least the minimum salary under employment laws. They also have additional rights, such as the ability to file a personal grievance. In triangular employment circumstances, where a third party manages or directs the employee’s daily tasks, the employee has the right to personal grievances.

On the other hand, a contractor is self-employed and is hired under a contract for services to provide services to a principal. Most regulations relating to employment do not apply to contractors, and they are responsible for their own taxes and ACC charges. Contractors do not have benefits like yearly or sick leave and cannot file personal grievances.

In order to accurately determine the nature of a working relationship, it’s important to focus on the actual dynamics of the situation rather than just the labels given by the parties involved. The legal system has established several tests to help distinguish between employees and contractors, including the intention test, control vs. independence test, integration test, and fundamental/economic reality test. It’s necessary to consider your specific circumstances and apply all of the relevant tests to arrive at a conclusion. However, no single test can definitively determine the nature of the relationship. If you remain uncertain after applying the tests, you can seek assistance from Employment Mediation Services or consult with legal counsel.

Misclassifying employees as contractors can lead to employers being responsible for additional expenses such as unpaid PAYE tax, unpaid minimum pay, unpaid vacations, and unpaid leave entitlements. Employers may also face penalties from the Employment Relations Authority and/or Inland Revenue and damage to their reputation. It is essential to correctly classify your workers to avoid these consequences.