A Court of Appeal hearing begins today for a case that could lead to a big payout for thousands of respite carers.

Kapiti worker Jan Lowe was paid a "subsidy" of just $75 for a 24-hour shift for the Capital Coast DHB. Her work involved supporting people with disabilities, such as dementia, and caring for them while family caregivers were away.

Last year, the Employment Court found under the "home worker" definition in the Employment Relations Act, she was an employee and entitled to the minimum wage of $15.25 an hour, holidays and other minimum employment entitlements.

But her employer, Capital Coast DHB, and the Ministry of Health appealed the decision, arguing she was not an employee, and if she was, they were not the employer.


A hearing for the Court of Appeal case begins this morning.

The union says the case has implications for 30,000 respite carers.

E tu assistant national secretary John Ryall said respite carers did an important job in supporting some of the most vulnerable New Zealanders and deserved to be paid the minimum wage.

"Just as court decisions in recent years have led to disability workers and home support workers being paid the minimum wage for sleepovers and travel time, we hope that a successful outcome for Jan Lowe will lead to tens of thousands of respite carers gaining similar entitlements."