How to Hire Seasonal Employees: Everything you need to know

Published 28 November 2023 | 2 min read

Hiring Summer Staff: Tips for employers

As the summer sun warms the country, businesses across New Zealand are gearing up for the seasonal hustle, be it in agriculture, hospitality, or manufacturing. The need for additional hands is imminent, but before you dive into the hiring frenzy, a few crucial considerations demand your attention.

The terminology around employment can be as confusing as a GPS without signal. Casual, fixed-term, part-time – do you find yourself mixing up these terms? The challenge intensifies when legal obligations come into play. The last thing you want is to find yourself navigating employment laws without a map.

Before you spiral into summer hiring, here’s your compass:

Understand the differences between casual, fixed-term and part-time

Casual employee

A ‘casual’ employee isn’t defined in law but usually refers to a situation where the employee has no guaranteed hours of work, no regular pattern of work, and no ongoing expectation of employment. They only work when it suits both parties. If you hire a casual employee, you must ensure that they are on a casual employment agreement.

Fixed-Term employee

Fixed-term employment will end on a specified date or when a particular event starts and finishes. A fixed-term employee might be someone who is brought in to replace another employee on parental leave, to cover a seasonal peak or to complete a project. There must be a genuine reason for the fixed term.

Part-Time employee

Part-time employees have a regular pattern of work, but the key distinction is that their hours are less than what would be expected of a full-time employee. Employment legislation doesn’t define what full-time or part-time work is, but full-time work is often considered to be around 35 to 40 hours a week. You have exactly the same employment rights and responsibilities if you’re a part-time or full-time employee. 

Seasonal employees

Seasonal employment is generally a type of fixed-term employment where the employment agreement says that the work will finish at the end of the season. It’s commonly used in the fruit, vegetable, fishing and meat industries.

In some situations, seasonal employment can become rolling fixed-term employment in which the employee is re-hired at the start of every season. Exercise caution here as fixed-term employment agreements should not be continuously rolled over or they risk being deemed permanent employees.

This list is not exhaustive, please visit Employment NZ for a list of all types of employees.

Document everything

Every employee must have a written employment agreement. As an employer, you must meet certain requirements, including:

  • providing an employee with a written copy of their agreement, and
  • keeping a copy of the employment agreement (or the current signed terms and conditions of employment).
  • You must keep an 'intended agreement' even if the employee hasn’t signed it.

Keep a copy – signed or not – because paperwork is your ally!

Respect minimum rights

Non-negotiable. The minimum rights of an employee are the responsibility of the employer. They are legal requirements that apply even if they’re not in the employment agreement. As an employer, you can’t reduce these or trade them off for other things.

Immigration insights

In the quest for seasonal support, don't let the details trip you up. Employers have a responsibility to make sure that an employee can work for them legally.

If you are a registered employer and have the person’s consent and information, you can check their immigration status to see:

  • whether they have the right to work here,
  • the conditions of their visas, and
  • the expiry date.

You can do this using VisaView – an online system for employers provided by Immigration New Zealand.

Still unsure?

Our friendly employment & HR experts are just an email or a phone call away. 

Email us at, or call us on 03 366 4034 for professional, one-on-one guidance.

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