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Working in Dance

Guide to: the minimum rights for employees and contract workers

© DANZ 2011 


The nature of the dance industry in New Zealand is such that many people are employed as contractors rather than employees. DANZ research in 2009 highlighted concern within the industry that there is poor understanding of contracts, with only 56% of people saying they were fully informed about their rights on terms of employment. This resource has been produced to help clarify the differences between the rights of employees and contract (self-employed) workers. 

The Department of Labour has produced a document which indicates the differences between a self employed contractor and an employee. 

If a person is an employee, they will have rights under the Employment Relations Act and other employment laws. If a person is a self-employed contactor they will not be covered by the Employment Relations Act, and most of their rights and obligations will be determined by general civil law.


Every employee must have a written employment agreement that includes the following:

  • provision for annual holidays, public holidays, sick leave, bereavement leave and parental leave
  • be paid the adult minimum wage
  • receive equal pay and equal rights
  • entitled to rest and meal breaks
  • provision of a safe workplace, with proper training, supervision and equipment

Employees can access a variety of avenues for problem solving including mediation, and if necessary recourse to the Employment Relations Authority and actions in the Employment Court. Employees can’t be asked to agree to less than these minimum rights. 

For more information go to the Department of Labour website which has detailed information on all the minimum employment rights.


Annual Holidays

No minimum annual holiday entitlement. Contractors often work for shorter periods of time and therefore a contractor’s normal rate should take into account that they need to provide for both holidays and for ‘down time’ between jobs. 

Public Holidays
No minimum public holiday entitlement. Contractors are typically expected to work through holidays (and indeed work overtime without overtime rates). When negotiating contracts contractors should take these issues into account. Contractors can request that a premium payment be made for working on a public holiday. 

Sick Leave
No minimum sick leave entitlement.
Contractors often work through sickness because there is no sick leave allowance in their contracts. Contractors should ensure their rate includes a small premium to cover times when they genuinely need to take sick leave.

Bereavement Leave
No bereavement leave entitlement.

Parental Leave
May be entitled to up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave, funded by the Government; this is a capped weekly amount. The payment can be taken by one parent or shared between two eligible partners.

Minimum pay
No minimum pay rate. 

Equal Pay
Rate of pay negotiated separately, but like employees cannot be paid less solely on the basis of their sex.

Equal Rights
Cannot be discriminated against because of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital or family status, employment status, age, religious belief or political opinion, disability, or participation in certain union activities.

Break entitlements
No minimum break entitlements.

Health and Safety
The Health and Safety in Employment Act places a duty on an individual or company who engages any person to take all practicable steps to ensure that contractors, subcontractors and their employees, are not harmed while undertaking any work under the contract.

Problem Solving
Problem solving is usually determined by dispute resolution provisions in the contract. Contractors should ensure their contracts contain adequate provisions for dealing with disagreements and contracts should provide for independent mediation and arbitration.


In comparison with employees contactors do not have the same minimum rights in law, therefore it is important to ensure when negotiating your contract that adequate provision is made to include these.

Disclaimer: This is a guide only, not a comprehensive or complete list of all employment/contractual rights and may not be accurate for all situations. It should not be used as a substitute for legal or other expert advice.

See DANZ Contract Checklist for Dancers for information on contract clauses and tips for negotiating.

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