When the two parties are “employer” and “employee” the agreement is called an employment agreement (or an individual employment agreement).
As an employee, you must have a written individual employment agreement containing certain information. This agreement sets out in writing the rules of your job and what you have to do. To work, you need to have an employment agreement, it’s the law and the responsibility of your employer to arrange the agreement.
Your employment agreement sets out the rules of the working relationship between you (the employee) and the farm owner/manager (the employer). It’s normally a lot of paperwork but necessary to set out the arrangement and can protect you if things don’t work out. It explains what your rights are, your responsibilities and what is expected of you.
Make sure you know what your employment arrangement is:
- Full time or part time
- Permanent or fixed term
It doesn’t matter if you are permanently employed (indefinitely) or casual, you are required to have a written employment agreement. Even if you are a relief milker or only on the farm for a set period of time (fixed term), you should still have an employment agreement.
The Employment New Zealand website has more information on employment agreements.
Full time or part time?
If you are offered a full time position, normally this means you will work a minimum of 35 hours per week and normally 40 hours or more each week. A part time employment agreement means you normally work less than 35 hours per week – there are lots of different options for part time work hours. Your work hours might be the same every week or different every week.
Permanent or fixed term?
If you are offered a permanent position, it means that the work is ongoing and there is no end to it. A fixed term employment agreement has an end date and may be offered to you if there is a genuine reason for the work to be only for a set period of time or not ongoing, like for a specific project or for parental leave cover.
The employment agreement should clearly state the reason for your fixed term and when the fixed term employment will end and why. You and the employer should agree this in writing before you start work. You should not expect the job to continue after the date the position ends.
A casual employment agreement means you should have no expectation there will be regular work or any pattern of work hours. It means the work hours are ad hoc and you will only be contacted on an as needed basis. You should have the option to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the work based on your availability.
The Empolyment New Zealand website has more information on types of employee.
Employment agreement checklist
This is a list to check what’s in your employment agreement.
Note: The first six are required by law to be in the agreement, 7 and 8 do not have to be in the agreement, but must be provided by law. Download the employment agreement checklist here.
Employment agreement checklist
Is your employment agreement in writing?
Is your name and your employers name on the agreement?
Does it name your place of work (the location)?
Does it state what your hours of work will normally be?
Does it state your rate of pay?
Does it say how any problems or disputes will be settled?
Does it say that you are entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday?
Does it say that you are entitled to 5 days paid sick leave?
Use this list to check you understand what the conditions of your employment will be before you agree to the job. Download the pre-employment checklist here.
Do you have an employment agreement in writing?
Do you know what your leave entitlements are?
Do you know if the job is fixed term or permanent?
Do you know what breaks you are entitled to?
Do you know what your roster will be and how often it is likely to change?
Do you know what gear is provided for you and what you are expected to own? Do you know what PPE (personal protective equipment) is provided for your safety (like helmets)?
Do you know what training will be provided when you start? Do you know if the farm will provide paid formal training off-farm?
Do you know what your rate of pay is and what the additional benefits are? Do you know how often you will be paid and how?
Have you seen the accommodation, are you happy with it? Do you know what it costs and how you are expected to pay?
Find out how to prepare for an interview.
What should be written in my employment agreement?
Your employment agreement legally must have the following:
- Your name and the name of your employer
- Your position and duties
- The location (address) where the work is to be performed
- Your hours of work
- Remuneration (salary or wages)
- An explanation of how employment problems will be resolved.
Other items often in an employment agreement:
- Your leave entitlements
- Your roster information
- Accommodation provided and how rent will be deducted
- Your health and safety obligations
- Timing and frequency of pay reviews
- What notice you need to give prior to leaving
- Performance review policies
- Security and confidentiality agreement
- Processes for dealing with termination of employment
- Processes for dealing with misconduct and serious misconduct
- Harassment policy.
Where do you get an employment agreement?
If you don’t have an employment agreement, you can ask your employer for one.
Some businesses write their own employment agreements using the employment agreement builder, but most dairy farmers get templates from the following sources:
- Federated Farmers contracts and agreements
- Rural Professionals – including lawyers, accountants and farm consultants.
Check out Employment New Zealand's website for more information on employment agreements and types of employment agreements or if you have a specific question, phone their advice line on 0800 20 90 20.
What is a trial period?
If you have a trial period in your employment agreement it should only be for up to 90 days. It is a common arrangement and it’s legal provided you agreed to the trial period before you started work and the agreement is agreed by the employer and employee in good faith.
More information if you are concerned about your trial period.
If you agree to live on the farm you will normally have an accommodation agreement in place. The agreement could be written within your employment agreement, in a document separate to your employment agreement, or accommodation may be a verbal arrangement.
A tenancy agreement outlines the responsibilities and rights both you and your landlord (who can also be your employer) have regarding the house and any bond paid. Tenancy Services has more information.
In farming, the accommodation agreement is normally called a service tenancy. This is the same as a normal tenancy agreement between landlord and tenant, except you are only a tenant in the accommodation because of your job.
The agreement works the same way as a normal agreement between tenant and landlord except:
- The tenancy is linked to your employment. This means that if your employment ends, you normally won’t be able to stay in the accommodation.
- The notice period to vacate the accommodation might be shorter than a normal tenancy.
- If you agree, your employer may take your rent payments for the accommodation directly out of your pay. You would normally be asked to sign something in writing to say that you agree to do this.
No formal agreement
If no formal agreement is in writing, a verbal agreement may prove to be valid under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, depending on the circumstances.
Contact Tenancy Services on 0800 836 262 about accommodaton agreements information and guidance on dealing with common tenancy issues.
See our accommodation page for accommodation considerations including your responsibilities, paying rent, resolving disagreements and what question to ask.