The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) now has powers to apply stand down periods on employer incurs penalties relating to employment standards.
These powers are there to protect migrant workers from exploitation. This group of employees enjoy the same legal protection as domestic workers but are more vulnerable due to the reliance on job offers for many visa classes.
Employers can be stood down because of investigations by Labour Inspectors, an Employment Relations Authority determination or an Employment Court decision in relation to any worker. Bans could be for up to 2 years. According to MBIE, bans would have been placed on 41 employers in the last financial year had the powers be in place.
Migrant worker exploitation is rife in New Zealand, according to a recent Auckland Business School study. The Human Rights Commission said that this type of exploitation is widespread and is one of the top five human rights abuses in New Zealand.
While the ban will protect workers from employers with a previous history it may not encourage workers to come forward and report current exploitation. A migrant who reports their employer will be able to work out the term of their visa with the non-compliant employer. Of course, they will not be able to continue to work for them after that, limiting their ability to find further work. If the period left to a visa’s expiry is short, the migrant worker may opt to continue to work for the non-compliant employer to gain a further work visa first, potentially extending the time they are at risk.
This regime places a brighter spotlight on a business’s need to comply strictly with its obligations. If you need assistance with any element of your compliance, contact Michelle Urquhart or Shima Grice.