Better protections for vulnerable contractors

Submissions closed: 14 February 2020, 5pm

Feedback was received from a public consultation on better protections for vulnerable contractors in 2020.

The Government wants to ensure that all workers in New Zealand have access to decent work conditions and fair remuneration. The feedback received from public consultation in 2020 made it clear that some workers who are engaged as contractors are vulnerable to poor outcomes, because they lack both the protections offered to employees by law, and the power to negotiate a better deal.

The consultation showed varying levels of support for a range of options that could better protect vulnerable contractors:

  • There was widespread support for more resourcing to enforce the current system.
  • There was widespread opposition to creating a new category of workers eligible for a limited set of rights and protections.
  • There were mixed levels of support for other options, such as placing the burden of proving a worker is a contractor on firms, giving Labour Inspectors the ability to decide workers’ employment status, and defining some occupations of workers as employees.

Summary of work to date 

  • MBIE issued a discussion document in 2019 which set out a wide range of potential options for change.

Read the summary of submissions [PDF, 2.4 MB]

  • In 2021, the Government asked a Tripartite Working Group, made up of union, employer and public sector representatives, to examine the issue and report back with recommendations.
  • The Tripartite Working Group provided its report in December 2021. Its recommended priority for reform was establishing a stronger distinction between employment and self-employment status in law. It recommended that policy work be undertaken to support consultation on a more detailed proposal.

Read the tripartite working group report [PDF, 440 KB]

The Tripartite Working Group recommended that a more detailed policy proposal based on its recommendations be developed and consulted on.

Since the Working Group delivered its report, the Employment Court delivered a judgment on the employment status of 4 Uber drivers. The decision has been appealed and this legal process will take some time to work through.

The Government has announced that further work on responding to the Tripartite Working Group’s recommendations has been put on hold pending the outcome of the appeals process.

Background documents

Better protections for vulnerable contractors consultation

The Government sought feedback from the public on 4 groups of possible options for change. The options aimed to:

  • ensure that workers receive their minimum rights and entitlements
  • reduce the imbalance of bargaining power between firms and contractors who are vulnerable to poor outcomes
  • ensure that system settings encourage inclusive economic growth and competition

The consultation aimed to explore the advantages, disadvantages and costs of the different options, and how these options could be effectively designed and implemented to deliver better outcomes for people in New Zealand.

Last updated: 29 March 2023