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Vineyard labour contractor to pay $73,081.70 for employment law breaches

A viticulture labour contracting business has been ordered to pay $73,081.70 in penalties and arrears for breaching employment law following a Labour Inspectorate investigation.

Marlborough based business Precise Contracting Limited was found to have failed to provide 83 employees with minimum wage, correct holiday pay, or keep proper employment records.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) set a $40,000 penalty on top of the $33,081.70 of arrears to be paid to workers.

During the Labour Inspectorate’s investigation, multiple problematic employment practices were highlighted, such as failing to pay employees their last weeks’ pay or holiday pay when they left the business.

“Providing your employees all their minimum entitlements, such as at least a minimum wage for every hour worked and holiday pay, are the basics every employer in New Zealand must follow,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

“Just because you find employees leaving your business ‘frustrating’ does not entitle you to penalise them by withholding their last pay.”

Precise Contracting Limited director Rhonda Burridge would also regularly alter the timesheet of employees, favouring supervisor’s records where there were conflicts – especially when fewer hours were recorded.

Ms Burridge would also add in 45 minute unpaid lunch breaks, even when employees had recorded shorter breaks.

“Altering your employees’ timesheets without their consent, as was common practice for Ms Burridge, is not acceptable,” says Mr Finnegan.

“Having accurate employment records is important for protecting employers and employees, both for ensuring all hours are paid for, and helping to avoid disputes.

“New Zealand has a reputation as a fair and equitable country, and it’s important this is maintained.

“With such a big stake in exports, it’s in the best interest of the viticulture industry to take active steps to make sure employment obligations are being met on their vineyards.”

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