This case involves event based fixed term employment. Mr McAuley was employed on a series of four fixed term contracts, the final of which was said to end upon completion of the restructure of Carter Holt Harvey's fire service. On expiry of the fourth agreement Mr McAuley challenged his fixed term employment status and claimed he was entitled to all the benefits received by permanent Carter Holt Harvey employees.
The Authority considered that Carter Holt Harvey did not have a "sufficiently specific proposed event upon which to base a fixed term agreement." It found that the third and fourth fixed term agreements were invalid and Mr McAuley was therefore a permanent employee.
However, on appeal by Carter Holt Harvey, the Court overturned this and took a more practical approach. It considered that the event triggered end date was sufficiently specific. It found that the Authority's interpretation of section 66 requiring a "sufficiently specific proposal" lacked analysis and precedent. The Court, in making its decision, looked at the wording of the agreement, background events relating to the nature of Carter Holt Harvey's intentions as well as Parliament's intention in drafting section 66. It emphasised the need for genuineness, reasonableness and propriety for fixed term agreements to be valid, but noted that this is not the same thing as providing sufficient specificity of the event upon which the agreement expires. In this regard, it was important that Carter Holt Harvey had never abandoned its intentions to restructure its fire service and that this was "a project at all relevant times". This case is of assistance for employers who are considering fixed term agreements for specific projects as it provides useful guidance on the level of detail the agreement needs to have about the termination event.