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Asparagus boss to pay $58,818.02 for repeated employment failures

A labour hire company working on asparagus farms in the Waikato must pay $58,818.02 after being caught twice by the Labour Inspectorate failing to keep employment records.

BBS Horticulture Limited was penalised $57,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for failing to retain employment agreements, or keep records of wage, time, holiday or leave, and ordered to pay $1818.02 in arrears to former employees.

The company has a history of non-compliance, with the Inspectorate first visiting BBS in November 2013 and discovering many employees were working in breach of their visa conditions, and without records of employment.

The Labour Inspectorate gave BBS an opportunity to fix their employment practices when an improvement notice was issued, and time and wage records supplied by BBS a few months later suggested they had complied.

When the Inspectorate conducted a follow-up audit in late 2015, it was revealed BBS had disregarded their obligations and reverted back to non-compliant practices. BBS were yet again unable to supply wage records.

The extent of the non-compliance was made even more apparent when the Labour Inspectorate again visited BBS in October 2016 to find that 11 Chinese employees, one working in breach of their visa, had no individual employment agreements, or time sheets.

After the Labour Inspectorate questioned BBS sole shareholder and director Davinder Singh about the 11 people working for him on this visit, they were disappointed to find Mr Singh could not name a single employee.

“Keeping individual employment agreements and time, wage, holiday and leave records, are among employers most basic obligations in New Zealand,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

“BBS Horticulture Limited received multiple warnings along with advice on how to get their practices up to scratch, but they continued to ignore their obligations, and showed themselves to be completely unfit to be an employer.

“Without records employers may be unable to prove they’re providing employees with their minimum employment entitlements, such as the minimum wage, so we take these kinds of breaches very seriously.

“Not only is it unfair to the employees involved, but it’s an offence to the wider business community who do meet their obligations – all employers in New Zealand must operate under the same set of rules, there are no exceptions.”

In addition to the $58,818.02 in penalties and arrears, BBS Horticulture Limited is now on a 24 month stand down period restricting their access to migrant labour.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, to call the contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

You can read the full ERA decision online. (external link)