In the motel industry the question of staff contracts and definitions is often raised with me. It is interesting to hear all the different interpretations and methods of employing staff and paying wages. Legally however as an employer a motelier is bound by statutory law and must abide by the obligations under these laws.
Probably one of the biggest misnomers is that cleaning staff in a motel are casual employees. The term casual employee is loosely used to describe someone under a fixed term contract. This is clearly defined in the act as
Fixed term employment
- (1) An employee and an employer may agree that the employment of the employee will end—
- (a) at the close of a specified date or period; or
- (b) on the occurrence of a specified event; or
- (c) at the conclusion of a specified project.
The act goes on to specify that this type of employment contract must not be used to
- to exclude or limit the rights of the employee under this Act:
- (b) to establish the suitability of the employee for permanent employment:
- (c) to exclude or limit the rights of an employee under the Holidays Act 2003
In many cases motels call their staff casuals and pay them as if they are under a fixed term contract in that they pay holiday pay as a percentage of their wages on a weekly basis. Motel cleaners work variable hours but have an expectation when they finish work for each day that at some stage in the near future there will be further work for them. Under the terms of the act treating cleaners as fixed term contract employees is illegal and should the employee have issues at a later date they can claim that they have not received holiday pay and the motelier may be required to pay holiday pay on top of the wages already received.
A motel cleaner is a permanent part time employee with variable hours. They can be employed on a basis where you call them when you need them and tell them when they are not required but they are entitled to all the benefits that any other permanent employee is entitled to. Their employment contract must be in writing stating the terms and conditions of their employment. The holiday pay must be paid when they take their holiday not as a percentage each week. The essence behind holiday pay is that the employee has a break from work as much as that they have holiday pay so it should be paid to them when they are having time off. If they do not have regular rostered days each week then a day they are not working could be considered to be a holiday and paid as such. This must be shown clearly on the pay slip and pay records.
Many motel operators have employees who do not have an employment contract and who are paid holiday pay as a percentage of their weekly wage. As a business operator you can chose to operate in which ever manner you wish but you must be aware that this style of employment relations may leave you open to possible problems at a later stage should your employee become disgruntled and take the issue further. If you are unsure of the Employment regulations and what your obligations are as an employer you should seek legal advice to make sure you are in fact doing things correctly.