Fixed term employment, casual, locums and secondments during Covid-19

In a move to increase the capacity of the health workforce, the Ministry of Health (MOH), is requesting that the capacity of the health workforce ramped up. Those health and care professionals that are retired, have changed professions, currently employed in private, are being called on to serve during the pandemic and work in the DHBs.

During these critical times, we will need all the help we can get. If you know anyone who could assist with the Covid-19 response, please encourage them to sign on here:

Those who heed this call, will be either employed on fixed-term agreements or as locums (contractors) during this period.

Fixed term employment agreements

A fixed-term (temporary)employment agreement, is either employment for a specified time frame, for a stated project or when an event occurs. There must be a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for the fixed term and the employee must be told about this reason. Covid-19 is such a reason. An offer of employment has to stipulate that it is a fixed term agreement and the duration of it.

As a fixed term employee, you are entitled to join the union and be covered by the relevant collective employment agreement (MECA or SECA). Information on the relevant union and collective agreement will be included in the offer of employment. You will be entitled to the same employment entitlements as other union members (ie annual leave, sick leave, on call rates, penal rates etc) for the duration of the employment. The collective agreement is a minimum document, so an employer can offer you better conditions than what is in the collective agreement but not inferior ones. This is relevant during Covid-19 lockdown, as there is a responsibility for employers to also ensure an employee is appropriately looked after during these exceptional times. You might require transport, childcare and accommodation, meals, etc.

What is important is that you join your union and get the appropriate support, advice and advocacy that you need. You don’t want to be alone during this time and need the back-up of your colleagues as they will need yours.

You can join here

Casual employees

A casual employee is directly employed by a DHB on a when needed and agreed basis. You can be requested to work specific shifts and days of work and either agree to do so or not. If you agree to work a shift and it is cancelled by the employer, you are still entitled to be paid for it.

You are also entitled to join a union and be covered by the relevant collective agreement. You are entitled to sick leave and most other provisions in the collective (penal rates, overtime after 8 hours work etc). Most casuals receive an 8% loading on your hourly rate (pay as you go) instead of annual leave. If, however you work a regular pattern (hours and days of work) you are also entitled to annual leave even if you have received the 8% loading.

Locums /contractors

A locum or contractor and is not a direct employee of the DHB. Most locums are employed by an agency, who has contracts with a DHB. Your employer in this instance is the agency.

A contractor is self-employed and contracts to the DHB directly, and is responsible for their own tax ACC etc.

In both cases while you can still be a union member, you may not be covered by a collective employment agreement.  Covid-19 guidelines, will though still apply to you while working in the Hospitals.

While it is your call, we would recommend that rather than accepting a locum employment or contracting yourself to the DHB, you instead insist on being employed directly by the DHB on a fixed term agreement. It is advantageous to have a union that can fully represent you and ensure your employment rights, and maybe even more so during times of crisis such as this.

If you would like to know more, please email us at


During Covid 19, some employees will be seconded to temporary roles within DHBs or between DHBs. In either situation your employment or service will remain continuous.

Within DHBs

If the role is within the same professional group, then you will just need to receive the salary of that new position if it is higher than your current position or a higher duties allowance.

If you are transferring to a completely different position, then they might offer you a fixed term agreement. It might not however be necessary i.e- you can likely remain on your existing terms and conditions and just have a cover letter or email documenting any temporary changes.   If you are in in this situation, please email us we can advise what is appropriate or not.

Between DHBs

You might be requested to do the same position in another DHB. This could be due to your DHB having adequate FTE, while another does not. In this scenario a new employment agreement (with the other DHB) is not necessary. You should remain on the relevant MECA/SECA and just agree on any additional terms for the secondment (i.e accommodation, additional pay if appropriate, allowances etc). Again, we are here to help and advise you if needed.

Click to read more Covid-19 resources.

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