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Labour Inspectorate responds to sharp rise of complaints in dairy sector

The Labour Inspectorate, along with the Tenancy Compliance Investigations Team, will visit dairy farms later this month to assess their compliance with minimum standards of employment and tenancy.

It comes after the number of complaints relating to dairy sector employers breaching minimum employment standards doubled from 14 to 28 between 2020 and 2021. In 2019 there were 19 complaints.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Callum McMillan says the dairy farming industry is a focus area for the Inspectorate, and that the visits, expected to take place from late February, follow similar exercises first undertaken in 2013.

“The key objective of the visits is to ensure better compliance in the dairy industry across minimum employment and accommodation standards. This will include looking at employment agreements, record keeping, and ensuring payments of at least the minimum wage” says Callum McMillan.

“We have had success working in close partnership with the dairy industry, to ensure this important part of New Zealand’s economy is meeting their obligations under labour and tenancy laws.

“As part of this industry-wide exercise, labour inspectors will talk with employers and employees, review records and we will also be accompanied by officers from MBIE’s Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team to assess standards of onsite accommodation for farm workers.

“More broadly, these visits will check that if a dairy sector employer is providing housing to their employees, that its compliant with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and that it meets the minimum standards aimed at ensuring the homes are warm, dry and safe.”

Warranted Labour Inspectors plan to visit farms in both the North and South Islands.

“The industry has taken some steps over the last few years by setting expectations and establishing assurance systems and has support readily available for dairy farmers on matters of employment.

“These visits are an opportunity for employers to demonstrate compliance, but if noncompliance is found, the Labour Inspectorate and TCIT will consider the appropriate response which may include the issuance of infringement notices,” says Mr McMillan.

Notes for reporters

The Labour Inspectorate protect employers and employees through regulating and monitoring minimum employment standards such as the minimum wage, holidays and leave entitlements. The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team ensure tenancy standards are being upheld, while targeting deliberately non-compliant landlords who are breaching the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

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.  If an employee has concerns relating to the accommodation their employer has provided they can call its Tenancy Services line on 0800 836 262.

Media contact: 027 442 2141 or, media@mbie.govt.nz