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Inspectorate to fine farmers who fail to act on employment obligations

Dairy farmers who fail to keep written employment agreements or time records can expect to receive a sharp shock, as the Labour Inspectorate launches nationwide probe into compliance in the industry.

Six farmers have already found themselves with infringement notices of $1000 or $2000 for breaching one or both of these basic employment obligations, following the Inspectorate’s investigation of 28 farms in the Waikato region over the last two months.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Natalie Gardiner says she was disappointed to find half of the dairy farms the Inspectorate visited in the Waikato in breach.

“The farmers we talked to in this investigation were well aware of their obligations, but chose to ignore the considerable amount of information made available by industry groups to help them get it right,” says Mrs Gardiner.

“Having time, wage, holiday and leave records, and a written employment agreement are the foundations of a good employment relationship,” she says.

“It’s time for dairy farmers to take action to meet these basic obligations, as the Inspectorate will not hesitate to take action against employers whose practices aren’t up to standard.”

A total of 21 employment breaches were identified across 14 farms, with the Inspectorate issuing seven improvement notices and three warnings in addition to $9000 in infringement notices.

Of the six farmers issued infringement notices, three received $2000 in penalties for breaching their obligation to have both written employment agreements and time records, and three received $1000 penalties for not having one or the other.

Employers who do not have these kinds of basic employment records in place can be handed an infringement notice by an Inspector of $1000 per breach, all the way up to $20,000.

While the infringement notices issued so far have been for either $1000 or $2000, farmers who continue to fail to meet these obligations may face larger penalties, says Mrs Gardiner.

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

View Rights and Responsibilites for further advice on employment obligations.