Kiwifruit growers reminded to meet employment standards or face enforcement

Labour Inspectors are visiting Bay of Plenty orchards this week.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Labour Inspectors are visiting Bay of Plenty orchards this week, making sure those involved in the Kiwifruit harvest are paying their employees correctly and are keeping accurate and complete records to show compliance.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan says this is a part of a regular visitation programme by the Inspectorate.

“This year, the main focus is on employers with a recorded history of employment issues and on checking that the industry assurance programmes are working as they should.

“We’re also doing random visits to orchards and checking that employees are treated legally and are receiving the correct entitlements. All employers who breach minimum standards will face compliance action,” says Mr Finnegan.

Those with serious breaches will face penalties of up to $50,000 per breach for an individual and $100,000 per breach for companies.

Businesses failing to produce complete and accurate time and wage records and written employment agreements can be fined $1000 for each employee and up to $20,000 in total.

“We expect all employers to get this basic step right. Good record keeping is the only way to ensure and demonstrate compliance.

“Horticulture sector is a priority area for the Inspectorate and we work closely with the industry to raise awareness of and compliance with the minimum employment standards.

“We know that customers expect employment standards compliance as part of New Zealand’s brand for fair treatment of workers, and the Labour Inspectorate has an important role in monitoring it.”

“Kiwifruit businesses need to make sure they’re using only certified contractors. Poor quality sub-contracting and labour on hire business models increase the risk of employment law breaches in the supply chain.

“Failure to provide workers with their basic entitlements undercuts the majority of businesses that do the right thing and play by the rules. It also jeopardises exports and domestic sales,” says Mr Finnegan.

MBIE encourages anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.