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Thirsty Liquor Tokoroa loses alcohol license after employment law non-compliance

The South Waikato District Licensing Committee has declined an application for a liquor license renewal sought by Two Brothers Wholesale Limited, Trading as Thirsty Liquor Tokoroa.

The decision follows objections raised by several parties and evidence presented by the Labour Inspectorate.

The Labour Inspectorate, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, investigated Two Brothers last year, after receiving a complaint from a former employee related to minimum employment standards. 

The Inspector identified systemic non-compliance with employment laws by Two Brothers over a five year period. This included severe deficiencies in record keeping, staff rostering, provision for staff welfare breaks and inadequate payment for hours worked, holiday pay and the taking of holidays. The employer was issued an Improvement Notice requiring them to remediate the breaches but failed to do this, despite being granted two extensions. 

The Licensing Committee also heard that the business provided no formal staff training to employees and required them to work long shifts alone, without adequate support or proper rest and meal breaks, putting them at risk of fatigue. The Committee stated these factors could impair the employees’ decision-making abilities such as identifying minors and intoxicated people, whom it’s illegal to sell alcohol to under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. 

The Committee believed that renewing the license could be detrimental to the vulnerable populations in the Tokoroa community. The business must cease the display and sale of alcohol two months from the date of the decision. 

Labour Inspectorate retail sector strategy lead Loua Ward says the Inspectorate is pleased with this outcome. “It is unacceptable for employers to continually and intentionally breach employment law, undermining employees’ rights and undercutting other businesses in the industry. 

“The Inspectorate was called on to provide information, not as an objector, and the evidence they provided wasn’t the sole reason the license renewal was declined, but it shows that systemic failure to comply with employment standards is often a symptom of wider problems in the way a business is run. 

“Liquor retail is a focus area for the Inspectorate as part of the wider retail sector strategy. In addition to undertaking audits and investigations into individual businesses, and providing information and education to employers and employees, the Inspectorate engages with key industry players such as franchisors, suppliers and licensing bodies. 

“We are starting to see industry leaders taking more proactive steps to lift compliance. This includes franchisors implementing their own assurance programmes to verify that businesses trading under their brand follow legal requirements and cutting ties with employers who fail to do this. 

“The majority of New Zealand employers want to do the right thing and ensuring a level playing field is especially important for the labour market’s recovery from the effects of COVID-19.” 

The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation or the situation of someone they know, to phone the Ministry’s service centre on 0800 20 90 20 where concerns are handled in a safe environment.

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