The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered a South Auckland petrol station, Mittal and Son Limited (MSL), trading as Mobil Porchester Road, to pay $20,000 for breaches.
MSL’s individual employment agreements contained a policy that staff on duty would have to cover the cost of fuel taken by customers who drive off without paying. This policy was applied in the case of at least two workers, one of them was under 20-years-old.
Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Callum McMillan says the issue of pay-docking for fuel pump drive-offs has been raised in the past across the industry.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see that Mobil has failed to stop these sorts of issues from occurring in businesses that trade under its brand.
“The fact that an employee has signed an employment agreement that forced them to pay for theft by customers, does not make the clause or its enforcement legal.”
The ERA found this is basically the same as charging an employment premium, which demonstrates the inherent imbalance of power in an employment relationship.
MSL director, Sohan Mittal said he was not aware the company was breaching the employment law, even after he sought legal advice on MSL’s employment agreements.
The ERA heard MSL had taken steps to rectify their practises, including changing their payroll provider to ensure compliance with records keeping and holiday pay obligations. The drive-off policy had since been removed from the individual employment agreements. All fuel pumps had been changed to pre-pay to prevent drive-offs, and affected employees had been repaid.
Nonetheless, the ERA determined Mr Mittal personally liable for an additional $3,000 in penalties.
“Mobil should take leadership to ensure that businesses licensed to carry their brand are complying with minimum employment standards and treating their frontline staff fairly. Failure to do so brings into question Mobil’s claim of being a ‘responsible corporate citizen’ and tarnishes the reputation of all Mobil outlets,” says Mr McMillan.
MBIE encourages anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to contact Employment New Zealand where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.