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Majority of farmers breaching employment laws

Dairy farm visits show majority of farmers breaching employment laws

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate has released the results of the second phase of its national dairy strategy, revealing more than half the farms visited were in breach of employment laws.

The Inspectorate announced in November 2013 that it would be visiting dairy farms across New Zealand to check compliance with minimum employment rights.

Central region manager Kris Metcalf says the visits were part of a long-term operation, with particular focus on a practice involving the seasonal averaging of salaries and the failure to keep accurate time and wage records.

“In total 44 farms were visited between December 2013 and early April 2014. Of these, 31 were found to be in breach of minimum employment rights.

“The level of non-compliance is disappointing, with most of the breaches relating to insufficient record keeping. Farmers need to keep accurate time and wage records to ensure they are meeting their obligations for minimum wage and holiday payments.

“The Labour Inspectorate has taken enforcement action in response to the identified breaches, which has resulted in 22 enforceable undertakings and one improvement notice being issued.

“These farmers have been given 28 days to comply and the Labour Inspectorate is now actively following up compliance,” Mr Metcalf says.

Thirteen labour inspectors took part in this phase of the national dairy strategy. The northernmost farm was located in Kaitaia; the southernmost farm was located in Invercargill.

The Labour Inspectorate recovered arrears in one case, with a farmer paying an employee $6000 for breaching the Minimum Wage Act 1983. Several cases are still open with the possibility of more serious enforcement action pending.

Mr Metcalf says the next phase in the national dairy strategy will be focussed on farms employing migrant workers.

“Farmers need to lift their game in complying with minimum employment rights and can expect a strong enforcement response from the next phase.

“There are financial penalties for not complying with employment laws of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies.”

Mr Metcalf reminds farmers that examples of sufficient wage and time records can be found on the IRD and Dairy NZ websites.

MBIE encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation to call our contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.


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