The Labour Inspectorate last week conducted a large-scale operation to identify potential migrant exploitation and check on minimum employment standards compliance at 85 businesses in Auckland.
The three-day operation, carried out jointly with Immigration Compliance and Investigations, followed formal complaints being lodged against the retail and hospitality businesses spread across Auckland.
"We take migrant exploitation seriously. This operation is a tangible example of that commitment to follow up on alleged breaches of minimum employment standards and exploitative practices," said Simon Humphries, Head of Compliance and Enforcement, Labour Inspectorate.
He said the operation had been valuable in helping the Inspectorate and Immigration Compliance and Investigations gauge levels of compliance by Auckland businesses operating in the retail and hospitality sectors.
"The intent was to educate where possible but also to hold accountable employers who are deliberately exploiting migrants.
"Our focus was on ensuring employers were complying with minimum employment standards by paying people the right minimum wage, holiday pay, leave entitlements and maintaining proper record keeping practices," Humphries said.
The compliance operation forms part of a broader national strategy for the Labour Inspectorate to take a graduated and proportionate approach to gaining sustained compliance by using a suite of interventions including proactive education and information-focused approach. This will increase the knowledge of businesses operating in the retail and hospitality sectors on how to get employment law right, how to access help when problems arise, and improve compliance and awareness of the Labour Inspectorate.
"Some of the businesses were found to be non-compliant with lower-level breaches such a poor recordkeeping. It’s encouraging these businesses are now working with Labour Inspectorate to ensure they have better employment practices.
"However, there were also other instances where we were disappointed to find serious breaches in minimum employment standards," Simon Humphries said.
High levels of non-compliance were found among the businesses visited.
Breaches uncovered included:
- wages below the minimum wage rate being paid
- no employment contracts for employees
- inadequate or no record keeping
- employee holiday and leave entitlements being withheld
- breaches of visa conditions
- employers demanding money from employees.
Humphries said enforcement action will be taken against businesses where issues of "deliberate non-compliance and exploitative practices" were uncovered.
"At this stage, we expect between 12 and 15 infringement notices will be issued which could lead to some accredited employers being placed on the standdown list."
Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate are working with migrant communities to keep them safe from those who would exploit the conditions of their work visas.
Anyone concerned about their employment conditions are encouraged to contact MBIE through the MBIE contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.