Tackling temporary migrant worker exploitation

A $50 million government investment over the next four years will address temporary migrant worker exploitation in the New Zealand workplace.

The changes will reduce the risk of exploitation occurring in the workplace, remove barriers to report exploitation, and improve response systems for helping migrant workers. Employment New Zealand has seen an increase in reports of exploitation occurring during COVID-19.

Changes include establishing a new visa to support migrants to leave exploitative work situations and increasing the number of labour inspectors and immigration investigators to strengthen the enforcement response.

A free-phone number and reporting service will be set up to receive and handle complaints about exploitative work situations. This will ensure there is a dedicated focus on dealing with complaints of migrant worker exploitation and help build a better understanding of the nature and scale of the problem, which will inform enforcement action.

Future changes will also raise the standards for business models that can often permit exploitative practices to occur.

To support these changes an employment-focused campaign will be developed aimed at raising awareness among migrant workers about their rights, employers of migrant workers and their obligations under New Zealand’s employment laws, and informing the public about migrant worker exploitation.

These changes are part of an MBIE-led Review into temporary migrant worker exploitation. The Review aims to prevent migrant exploitation at work, protect migrants in the workplace, and enforce immigration and employment law.

While work is ongoing to implement the changes, the Labour Inspectorate will continue to enforce and monitor minimum employment standards such as minimum wages, holidays and leave entitlements against the exploitation of migrant workers throughout New Zealand.

Temporary migrant worker exploitation review – MBIE website (external link)