Harmans Lawyers
25 July 2023

Legal Milestone: Gloriavale Women Recognised as Employees

Employment Law

The Employment Court recently delivered a judgment (Pilgram & Ors v Attorney-General & Ors [2023] NZEmpC 105) confirming that six former female residents of the Gloriavale Christian Community were considered employees.

The Employment Relations Act 2000 excludes “volunteers” from the definition of employee. In order to fall within the excluded category of volunteer, a worker must have no expectation of reward for their work and receive no reward for their work.

Chief Judge Christina Inglis found that the women did expect to be rewarded for their work. They expected to be permitted to remain in the Community with their family and friends, receive food, shelter, clothing, religious support, guidance, and the promise of spiritual redemption.  Accordingly, it followed that the women were not volunteers.

When considering if the women were employees – Chief Judge Christina Inglis confirmed that employment status is determined on an objective basis. The following factors were deemed relevant in determining that the real nature of the relationship was one of employment:

  1. The nature of the work undertaken;
  2. How it was structured and managed;
  3. The fact that the work was of a sort which would generally be paid for;
  4. The nature of the facilities the work was conducted in; and
  5. The significant direction and control exerted on the women in their work.

The judgment did not identify the employer within the Glorivale community. Future judgments will be required in this regard, as the Labour Inspector has confirmed its approach to enforcement relies on the Court determining the identity of the employer(s).

In a statement released shortly after the judgment, Overseeing Shepherd Howard Temple said that Glorivale intended to appeal the Employment Court ruling on the basis that it would have significant and wide-ranging implications beyond Glorivale including how faith-based communities and families choose to live and structure their household responsibilities.

The decision confirms that regardless of the parties intentions or whether a contract is in place – the Court can and will look at the real nature of the relationship to determine if an employment relationship exists.