Stories about employers exploiting migrant workers by removing their passports, making them live in substandard housing and work for much less than the minimum wage have appeared with disheartening frequency in the media lately.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has issued warnings to a number of employers for exploitation and employment of illegal workers, but has been powerless to do more.
As a result, the Government is about to introduce substantial changes to New Zealand’s immigration laws, which will have a direct impact on all employers of migrant workers.
The changes are likely to come into effect later this year, and include:
- unannounced visits by Immigration Officers,
- the right to enter and search an employer’s premises without a warrant,
- fines of up to $100,000.00, and
- up to seven years in jail
for employers found in breach of immigration legislation.
Further, any employer who is found to be exploiting their migrant workers who themselves holds a resident visa may have their visa revoked and become liable for deportation.
The proposed extension of Immigration Officers’ search and entry powers will not just apply to employers who have been suspected of exploiting migrant labour.
Immigration Officers will be entitled to enter workplaces to:
- talk to any people present, including employees, in order to identify any offending,
- search for unlawful workers,
- check documents, and
- ensure that migrant employees and their employers are complying with the legislation by, for example, checking that an employee is doing the job listed in his or her work visa.
The severity of the penalties, along with the increased level of powers given to Immigration Officers, reflect the Government’s view that this type of offending is serious.
Therefore, it is more important than ever before for employers to ensure that they have systems in place before hiring to check that migrant workers are legally permitted to work in the role they have applied for, and that employers track employees’ visa expiry dates during employment.
If you employ migrant workers and would like further advice on how these proposed changes may affect your business, or if you would like advice on immigration matters generally,