By Robbie Magyar and Vaughan Granier

With the Christmas shopping and holiday period in sight, many employers have begun recruiting and hiring Christmas casuals! When your business is facing an influx of customer demand and extended trading hours (‘tis the season of giving after all), casual workers are valuable helpers!

As with any hiring process, you must understand your employer obligations to reduce any potential risks that may arise from poorly managed HR procedure.

These five best-practice tips will help you get through the process as smoothly as possible:

1. Select the right employment type

First, you need to establish whether the roles you’re creating are truly casual in nature with irregular and uncertain shift availability. But be careful; this is a tricky area of employment that many employers can unintentionally get wrong. There’s no legal definition of ‘casual employment’ under New Zealand law and employers will need to use sound discretion. Here are some key points to remember when determining whether your workers are casual or not:

    • Normally, casual employees will be those that are called upon to work on an as-needed basis. Casual employment is generally intermittent, irregular and inconsistent with no clear pattern of hours of work emerging over a reasonable period of time.
    • Casual employment can also be used to help with an increase in workload over a short time frame. For example, you might want to employ someone (like a student) for two to three weeks only, but with regular hours of work during that time.
    • Another characteristic of casual employment is that a casual employee can elect to accept or reject work because there are no minimum hours in their contract.
    • Should you wish to create a pattern of work but cannot guarantee ongoing permanent employment beyond the busy season, then consider fixed-term employment instead. But don’t forget that lawful fixed-term employment requires a genuine business reason to justify why an employee is required only for a fixed time frame. You can learn more about fixed-term employment here.

Should you have any doubt, I encourage you to speak to an employment relations expert who can help you understand what kind of employment agreement is best suited for your employee. Our workplace advisory team is available 24/7 to help our clients demystify employment questions just like this one in no time. Get in touch if you need a helping hand.

2. Don’t discriminate

When considering candidates, ensure your selection process is non-discriminatory. This includes not considering personal circumstances such as age, gender, ethnicity, and disability (unless the characteristic is an inherent part of the role, such as a person serving alcohol must be at least 18 years old).

3. Issue the casual employment agreement

Once you’ve found suitable candidates for the roles, provide them with a copy of their letter of offer and casual employment agreement. The employment documents should clearly state that:

    • the role is casual in nature;
    • there are no fixed or guaranteed hours; and
    • there is no guarantee of ongoing work after the Christmas period.

The casual employment agreement should also include all standard minimum employment entitlements.

4. Understand holiday and leave entitlements

Casual employees are still employees of the business, and you should ensure to treat them as such. Therefore, casual employees are privy to minimum employment and health and safety processes including holiday pay and leave. Let’s take a quick look at the essential entitlements you’ll be managing over the Christmas season.

Annual leave: as outlined above, annual leave for casual employees should be processed on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis, meaning you must pay eight per cent on top of gross earnings. Note that annual leave that is on a PAYG basis should be outlined as a separate component on the employee’s payslip.

Public holiday: casual employees are still entitled to public holiday. Public holiday is paid as follows:

  • If the employee works on a public holiday but this is not a normal working day: the employee receives time and a half.
  • If the employee works on a public holiday and this is a normal working day: the employee receives time and a half, plus a day in lieu.
  • If the employee doesn’t work on a public holiday and this is a normal working day: the employee receives their relevant daily pay.

The upcoming Christmas break will consist of four public holidays as follows:

  • Saturday, 25 December 2021: Christmas Day.
  • Sunday, 26 December 2021: Boxing Day.
  • Saturday, 1 January 2022: New Years Day.
  • Sunday, 2 January 2022: Day after New Years.

With the above public holidays being observed on Saturday and Sunday, be mindful of Monday-ised and Tuesday-ised public holidays. If you’re not sure how to manage leave and pay entitlements when a public holiday falls on the weekend, we explain this in more detail here.

Sick leave and bereavement leave: casual employees are also entitled to sick leave and bereavement leave after six months of employment.

5. Think long term.

It’s very common for roles to begin as casual but evolve into something permanent. If a casual worker begins to have regular and ongoing hours, this may no longer amount to casual employment. Seek advice and consider if you need to issue the employee with a permanent agreement. In saying this, make sure that you’re not using casual employment to trial an employee’s performance and capabilities prior to offering permanent employment – this is an unlawful use of casual work!

Follow these best-practice steps, and you should have a happy and successful Christmas trade period.

Of course, every business is different, and how you manage the hiring and employment of your Christmas casuals will be unique to your organisation. That’s where HR Assured comes in – if you need tailored assistance, we’re here to help! Let us take care of HR admin and compliance, so you can focus on your marketing, sales, and business culture during the festive season.

If you require specific advice about how to hire and manage your Christmas casuals, give the 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service a call.

Not an HR Assured client and need some advice? The team at HR Assured can support your business on a range of workplace matters. Contact us today to arrange a confidential, no-obligation chat.

Robby Magyar is a Workplace Relations Consultant at FCB (our parent company) and HR Assured who relishes the opportunity to assist businesses in the best practice approach to managing employees and compliance concerns. He has a particular interest in making employment law and human resources digestible for our clients.

Vaughan Granier is the National Workplace Relations Manager for HR Assured NZ. He has over 24 years of experience in international human resources, health and safety, and workplace relations management. With over 10 years working in New Zealand and Australian companies, he provides in-depth support to leadership teams across HR, Health and Safety, and employee management