Migrant Worker Exploitation - Recent Cases Where the Government Has Dealt These With Strong Hands

The NZ government and INZ safeguard migrants against workplace exploitation and impose heavy penalties on employers. Stay connected for more.

New Zealand has tried to retain its fortitude as the world topples under the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent new viral strain scare. The job ecosystem is being restructured and fortified with the help of the proactive participation of the government, immigration, and employment authorities who continue bringing employment law reforms.

Many skilled workers come into NZ for employment under a temporary visa every year.

As foreign migrants, they are susceptible to facing unreasonable exploitation and discrimination at the workplace.

The NZ Government, Employment authorities, and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have introduced multiple employment reforms which secure the rights of migrants and safeguard healthy working conditions for them. The government bodies have taken a cooperative stance with migrant workers who have faced exploitation at work and assisted them as best as possible.

The NZ government understands the immense value that a skilled migrant worker provides in its indigenous industrial operations. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, migrant workers have been toiling day and night to offer their value and ensure industries' seamless operation.

Know Your Employment Rights as a Migrant Worker

A migrant employee in New Zealand is entitled to the same minimum employment rights as an NZ employee.

Suppose you are a migrant employee in New Zealand. In that case, your employer cannot exploit you concerning wages, holidays, and working conditions or discriminate against you based on race, gender, or nationality.

All of these are legal offenses and punishable by law. If found violating the rights of a migrant worker, an employer can face imprisonment up to 7 years and be fined up to NZ $100,000.

These are some of the employment rights you must know about if you're a migrant worker in New Zealand

  • Employers must maintain written employment agreements stating the clauses and nature of the work. Employees cannot be forced into working beyond and over the agreed work conditions
  • A migrant employee must be paid at least the minimum wage per hour. Whether they receive payment in wages, salary, commission, or pay per piece, the employer must calculate the minimum wage according to the number of hours worked and pay the necessary sum
  • Migrant workers are entitled to the same leave and holiday benefits as New Zealanders. This means they can get leave up to four weeks besides all public holidays
  • An employer cannot make a deduction from a worker's wage without discussing the matter with the employee. Deductions should be made on genuine and reasonable grounds and should be proceeded with only after coming to a consensus with the employee
  • All records of wage payment, holiday leave, overtime pay, etc. should be clearly and transparently maintained. Inability to produce records during an investigation will implicate the employer who is liable to face punishment
  • An employer cannot coerce an employee under any circumstances. The workers cannot be forced to work overtime or pressured into agreeing to a deduction

If you face exploitation by an employer, reach out to Immigration New Zealand (INZ), Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), Labor Inspector, or the Employment Relations Authority(ERA) immediately. The NZ government is seriously looking to stop worker exploitation and will help you out as best as possible.

Book a Consultation with our pool of experts now to know more about migrant worker rights and how to battle workplace exploitation. They are well-versed in every issue regarding migrant worker opportunities and workplace conditions and will be happy to help you deal with your concerns.

Canterbury Planting Company Faces Huge Penalties for Employee Violations

In 2017, Seasonal Employer Christopher Gray had to suffer grave consequences for mistreating and exploiting migrant laborers under his employment.

Mr. Gray, who dealt in Motukarara asparagus in Canterbury, was charged with a penalty of NZD $26000 besides paying a total reimbursement sum of NZD $54000 to 13 employees from whom he had made unlawful deductions.

The main charge against the New Zealand employer was that his payment to the 13 employees did not fit the minimum wage criteria.

Upon interrogation by the labor inspector, it was found the employers were paid wages according to the amount of asparagus they picked $2.50 a kilo. These employees were being paid at a piece rate, and the laws of minimum wage per hour are binding no matter what the payment method is, whether salary, pay in commission, or piece-rate pay. They had received a lower payment than the minimum wage, amounting to a grave injustice against the employees.

Moreover, the employment reform laws also state that all records of wages and holidays must be clearly maintained. The employer had failed to produce clean documents of wages and holiday leaves. He was additionally charged with the failure to produce compliant holiday and leave records.

Besides, the employer had unlawfully deducted money under accommodation without obtaining consent from the employee party. The employees had also been exploited on the grounds that they were not paid commensurate wages after working extra hours on public holidays.

10 out of the 13 workers were from Fiji, with English as their second language. This had made them especially vulnerable to the injustice of their employer. Such acts are deemed utterly unacceptable by the NZ government, which has been striving to establish equal rights for migrant workers in both papers and practice.

The Employment Relations Authority delivered prompt services on gaining cognizance of these misdeeds. Besides imposing penalties and reimbursement fees, the Recognized Seasonal Employer license of the employer was also scrapped.

The Tiger Construction Exactions Owing to Unlawful and Non-Transparent Wage Deductions

Three Tiger Construction Scaffolding company workers alleged that their employer had made unlawful deductions by citing false causes of accommodation and training programs.

This complaint was then taken up by the Labor Investigator of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), who interrogated the company and imposed the necessary penalties.

The Employment Relations Authority(ERA) subsequently issued the order to impose a fine of NZD $21000 and a reimbursement sum of NZD $21692 to the employees who had brought in the complaint.

The employer was charged with unlawful deductions without discussion with the employee party. According to recent employment reforms, the employer can make a deduction from the wages on the condition that it is discussed on a prior basis and employees have full knowledge of the matter.

With regards to wages, employers must come to a consensus with employees and proceed with the matter only then. This can pave the way for a healthy employer-employee relationship where the latter can be safeguarded against workplace exploitation.


There have been many instances when employers have exploited workers by coercing or threatening them. This is especially applicable if a migrant worker has been working under unlawful conditions after their visa has expired.

Such cases must not deter workers from speaking up. They should reach out to the immigration offices and seek help instantly. If an honest approach is maintained on the worker's part, the immigration authorities may even allow them to apply for a visa extension while staying in NZ. In any case, such cases of exploitation will be handled in an unbiased manner with complete transparency.

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