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latest news in employment law

Increased Legal Protections Against Migrant Worker Exploitation

Published 04 Oct 2023

The Worker Protection (Migrant and other Employees) Bill is now law and comes into force on 6th January 2024.

This new legislation introduces an offence and penalty regime to deter employers of temporary migrant works from non-compliance with their legal obligations, e.g. allowing a worker to work without a visa, or otherwise permitting them to work in a manner that is inconsistent with their visa conditions.

Employers will be required to comply with Labour Inspector requests within 10 days, for example – a request to supply legally compliant employment documents, records, practices, etc. Failure to comply with requests from a Labour Inspector within the required timeframes may result in an infringement notice being issued.

The law also allows the High Court to disqualify a person from being a director of a New Zealand company if they are convicted of the unlawful exploitation of employees and temporary workers, or human trafficking offences.

The law is part of a broader programme and changes regarding strengthening the protections for migrant workers which includes a dedicated 0800 reporting line (0800 200 088), a joint approach by Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate to targeting issues in this area, education, along with various other proactive safeguards.

According to the Official Information Act the Labour Inspectorate has increased their workplace investigations by 120% in the first half of this year. Bearing in mind the Labour Inspectorate does not need a 'Statement of Problem' to be raised by an aggrieved employee in order to take action, a simple tip off can give them enough impetus to approach a business and commence enforcement action - it's likely we will see much more impromptu site visits from the Labour Inspectorate in the future. While relatively low-level breaches might not attribute particularly high fines, it should be noted that any breach can give INZ a reason to blacklist your business and revoke an AEWV.

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