Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016
True to the terms of its deal with Warner Bros, the Government
is rushing through a Bill to clarify the distinction between
independent contractors and employees in the film industry.
The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment
Bill aims to give film production companies confidence in New
Zealand's industrial relations landscape without impacting
other parts of our employment law.
Under the new Bill, workers engaged in film or video game
production work will not be employees unless they enter an
employment agreement which provides that they are an employee.
The Bill applies to a range of performers (including actors,
musicians and voice-over artists) and all workers involved in
pre-production, production and post-production work, both on and
off the set. It excludes work on programmes initially intended for
The new Bill will apply only to new contracts in the film
industry, not to existing ones.
Contrary to union comments, whether a particular worker is a
contractor or an employee is often unclear. Film companies will
benefit from the certainty that this new law provides.
Inevitably though, the legislation will extend beyond those who
typically work in contractor roles during film production to
capture workers (for example, permanent studio accounting staff)
who are more properly characterised as employees.
Most of those workers will have or be offered agreements which
specify that they are employees. If not, there is potential for
some (unintended and probably limited) unfairness.
We hope that the rapid passage of specific legislation for a
particular industry (and really for a particular business project,
although it will live on beyond that) will be an extremely rare
occurrence. Businesses and employers in the film industry should
recognise that this law gives them a real advantage, and they need
to use that advantage responsibly.
The information in this article is for informative purposes
only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact
Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
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