Contractor or employee?

There are a number of things that can help tell the difference between an employee and a contractor. There isn’t one thing that makes the difference on its own - you need to consider everything together.

Employees usually

  • do ongoing work that is controlled by their employer
  • work hours they’re told to work by their employer
  • are not responsible for financial risk
  • are entitled to superannuation from their employer
  • are entitled to minimum wages
  • have income tax taken out of their pay
  • are paid regularly (weekly / fortnightly / monthly)
  • are generally entitled to paid leave if they are permanent employees.

Independent contractors usually

  • decide how to do their work and what skills they need to do it
  • decide whether to employ someone else to do the work
  • carry the risk of making a profit or loss
  • pay their own superannuation and tax, including GST
  • have their own insurance
  • are contracted to work for a set time or do a set task
  • decide what hours to work
  • invoice for their work or get paid at the end of the contract or project
  • don’t get paid leave.

How do I tell the difference?

There isn’t one thing that makes the difference on its own - you need to consider all the points above.

You can use our Independent contractor quiz to help you.

These case studies compare different situations to show the difference between independent contractors and employees.

Sham contracting

Sham contracting is when an employer intentionally claims that an employee is an independent contractor. It also happens when an employer is careless about whether someone should be treated as an employee instead of a contractor. Sham contracting is illegal.

It’s also illegal to dismiss or threaten to dismiss an employee if they don’t agree to become an independent contractor.

If you think you’re in a sham contract, or if you’ve lost your job or have been threatened with losing your job for not becoming an independent contractor, you can Contact us or visit the Complaints section for information about what you can do.

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Page last updated: 25 Sep 2012