What is migrant worker exploitation?
Migrant exploitation is behaviour that causes, or increases the risk of, material harm to the economic, social, physical or emotional well-being of a migrant worker. This includes breaches of minimum employment standards or breaches of health and safety and immigration laws. This excludes minor and insignificant breaches that are not constant and easily remedied.
If you are in immediate physical danger, call 111 and ask for Police.
Your minimum employment rights
Migrant employees have the right to:
- written employment agreements
- minimum wage, if you’re 16 years or older
- paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks
- sick leave, bereavement leave, parental leave, and domestic violence leave
- public holidays
- 1.5 times your normal pay rate plus another day off, if you work on a public holiday that is otherwise a normal working day
- 4 weeks of paid annual leave
- ask for payslips
- be treated fairly if you lose your job through being fired.
These rights apply to everyone, even if you are working illegally. They cannot be taken away from any employee.
Employers can be fined and lose the right to employ overseas workers for breaching your rights.
Common types of exploitation
You may be a victim of exploitation if you:
- don’t have a written employment agreement (employment contract)
- have to pay a fee to get your job
- have to give back part or all of your wages to your employer
- are paid too little or nothing at all for your work
- are not paid for all hours of work
- are asked by your boss to say you have worked less hours than you have
- are made to work an excessive number of hours, with no breaks
- have no time off from work
- are not paid for public holidays or annual leave,
- cannot leave your workplace because the doors and windows are locked, or
- must ask for permission to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet.
You may also be a victim if your employer:
- forces you to do work that is not part of your job, such as clean their home
- threatens to call Immigration New Zealand to end your work visa
- makes you work more hours than your visa allows
- provides you with accommodation as part of your wages/salary, but makes you pay more for it than you should be by law. Find out more about:
Working for accommodation [PDF 476KB]
- threatens to harm you or your family if you don’t cooperate
- keeps your passport, or
- makes any unwelcome sexual gestures towards you.
Keeping yourself safe
It is very important that you follow the guidance below. This will help you avoid bad employers or help show that your employer is exploiting you.
- Do not pay to get a job. This is against the law.
- Do not borrow money to get a job.
- Do not believe in false promises by some employers, migrants’ advisors or work brokers, particularly if they are from overseas or ask you for money to get a job.
- Check the Immigration New Zealand website (external link)
- Be aware that just having a job does not guarantee a path to residency or citizenship.
- Do not give your passport to your employer. Keep it and other documents in a safe place.
- Where possible, keep copies of your passport and New Zealand issued visa in your home country.
- An employer must give an employee a copy of their individual employment agreement. Keep your agreement in a safe place.
- Keep a record of all hours and days you work, including:
- the amount and dates you are paid, and
- any amounts taken from your payments by your employer.
- Where possible, have your wages paid into a personal bank account. This protects your money and can help you keep track of your wage payments.
- Keep an appropriate record of any exploitation you believe you have experienced at your workplace.
Will I get in trouble if I complain?
Some employers know that migrant workers may be afraid to make a complaint, especially if they are working unlawfully or are worried they may be deported.
Some employers use this fear to take advantage of migrant workers. This is wrong. The New Zealand Government wants to stop employers from exploiting migrants. We want you to report any exploitation at work.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. We will treat you fairly. We can take action against the employer.
What happens when you make a complaint
Employment New Zealand will consider your complaint.
If you agree to be contacted, we aim to contact you within 3 working days. We will confirm the information you gave us and let you know how we can help.
MBIE has introduced the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa, which will ensure migrants can quickly leave exploitative situations and remain lawfully in New Zealand. The visa is valid for up to 6 months and will be available to those who are holding employer supported work visas, have had their report of exploitation assessed by Employment New Zealand, and have been given a Report of Exploitation Assessment Letter.
We evaluate all complaints and work with Immigration New Zealand to decide what action should be taken against the employer. This can include educating the employer or taking enforcement action against them.
We can also provide you with help, such as advice, information and connection to the support services necessary for your everyday life in New Zealand, where it is suitable.
How to make a complaint
Anyone who sees or suspects a breach of minimum employment rights can report it.
You will need to complete our online reporting form.
Or call us on 0800 200 088. Our call centre is open Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 5.30pm excluding public holidays.
Do you need a language translator?
Call us on 0800 200 088 and say the name of the language you speak. We will connect you with an interpreter. Interpreters are available for over 180 different languages.
- 如果你需要翻译， 请致电 0800 200 088.
- Afai e te manao’mia se fa’amatala upu, valaau i le 0800 200 088.
- Kung kailangan ng tagasalin at magpapaliwanag tumawag sa 0800 200 088.
- ਜੇ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਗੱਲ ਕਰਨਾਂ ਚਹੁੰਦੇ ਹੋ ਤਾਂ ਇਸ ਨੰ: ਤੇ ਸਪੰਰਕ ਕਰੋ 0800 200 088.
Other helpful services
You can also contact one of the services below for help with employment issues.
Early Resolution Service
The Early Resolution Service within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) helps resolve workplace issues early, quickly and informally.
Employment Mediation Services
Employment Mediation Services within MBIE is a free mediation service for any employee or employer with an employment relationship.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides free advice on dealing with complaints and disputes.
If you need free legal advice, you can contact Community Law.
Unions can help you with exploitation issues and help ensure you are being treated fairly. They can also negotiate with your employer on your behalf.
Crimestoppers is an independent charity that helps New Zealanders to fight crime, including migrant exploitation.
The information on this page is also available in other languages: