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Construction firm hammered with 19k penalty for employment breaches

An Auckland construction company has been penalised $19,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) following a Labour Inspectorate investigation.

“In construction whether you have ten employees, or ten thousand, your compliance with employment law should be as solid as the foundations of the houses you’re building,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager David Milne.

“Everyone must meet their obligations. We won’t accept any shortcuts when it comes to minimum standards, as every employee in New Zealand is entitled to receive at least the minimum wage, holiday pay, and have a written employment agreement.”

Setia Construction 2013 Limited was fined $14,000 for 17 breaches of employment standards, having some of its visa-dependent migrant workers on unlawful casual employment agreements that did not provide for entitlements such as sick leave and pay on public holidays.

“It is the nature of the relationship that is important, not the label you give your employee in the employment agreement – and in any case, casual employees, like all other employees, are entitled to holiday pay,” says Mr Milne.

“Too many employers take a misguided ‘no work, no pay’ attitude with casual employees that leads to entitlements to paid leave being ignored, opening themselves up to be penalised.”

Yee Bing Chang, Setia Construction’s sole director, was penalised $5,000 for facilitating the breaches, which included failing to provide employees the minimum wage, holiday and termination pay, and not having compliant employment agreements.

“It’s really important that any person working in New Zealand knows their rights as an employee, and employers should be aware that the Labour Inspectorate proactively goes out into workplaces regularly to make sure they’re being a lawful employer,” says Mr Milne.

“We have information on employees’ rights translated into 14 languages on employment.govt.nz, and encourage every person to get familiar with what they’re entitled to, and if they are concerned they aren’t receiving their minimum standards to get in contact.”

Anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, should call 0800 20 90 20 where they can report their concerns in a safe environment.