Changes for contractors working in NZ’s games and screen industry

Changes for contractors working in NZ’s games and screen industry

The Government has announced a law change is on the way for contractors working in New Zealand’s screen sector – including game developers.

The law change is intended the strengthen contractor’s employment rights while still making New Zealand an attractive place for screen productions, including games.

The changes follow a consultation process with a screen industry working group and the draft bill will be open to public submissions at Select Committee. The NZ Game Developers Association was briefed by the working group but was not a member of it. The NZGDA is keen to hear feedback on the proposal from game devs, employees, freelancers and employers. We plan to make a submission on the bill and will hold further discussions during the NZ Game Developers Conference, 5-6 September 2019.

Game development has been included as part of the wider ‘screen sector’. The working group recommended this to more accurately reflect modern screen work, transmedia productions,  new formats in the future, and workers moving between different forms of screen production. Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says “the model will apply to screen production work such as on films, drama serials, commercials and video games. Its exact coverage will be determined during drafting in consultation with the industry.” Game development was included in the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act back in 2010 (sometimes called ‘The Hobbit Law’), but without industry consultation at the time. While contracting is more frequent in the film industry, it is also a common practice in New Zealand’s game development sector.

For more details see the MBIE website. The key aspects of the new model are:

  • Whether a screen sector worker is a contractor or employee will continue to be determined solely by the type of written agreement they have. If you have a written employment agreement, this bill should not affect you.
  • If you have a written contract, new universal terms will apply to all contract relationships in the screen industry. These relate to good faith between parties; protection from bullying, discrimination and harassment; fair and reasonable contract termination; and fair rates of pay.
  • If you hire contractors, you will have to be familiar with and abide by these new terms.
  • In future, contractors will be able bargain collectively at occupational and enterprise levels, with clear processes covering how bargaining is initiated, carried out and concluded. This opens the door to creating a collectively-agreed and legally enforceable set of minimum employment standards for game development in New Zealand.

If you have any concerns, views or questions about how this may affect you, feel free to email and sign up for updates on the MBIE website.