Legal Update: Courier drivers - contractors or employees?

Gordon Anderson, Professor of Law, Victoria University of Wellington reviews a recent decision of the Employment Court which addressed the issue of when workers are contractors and when are they employees, with all the protections of employment law.


Leota v Parcel Express Ltd raises the contentious issue of whether owner drivers, and in particular courier drivers, are employees or independent contractors. The questionable conditions of work for courier drivers has received considerable publicity in the last few years and a determination on their employment status is, therefore, of considerable interest. While the determination in this case applies to only a single driver the Court’s reasoning in the case potentially has a much wider application. While there are some features of the case that may not be generally applicable, it is difficult to see why the overall tenor of the decision would not apply more widely to the industry and have the effect of reinterpreting the position as understood following TNT Worldwide Express (New Zealand) Ltd v Cunningham. Such a reinterpretation would not be unexpected following the changed statutory foundation for determining whether a worker is an employee as well as case law developments in both New Zealand and Britain.

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