Labour Inspectorate extending dairy farm visits to regions

05/12/2013 19:02

Labour Inspectorate extending dairy farm visits to regions

Media Release

26 November 2013

The Labour Inspectorate is extending its dairy farm visits to regions across New Zealand to check compliance with minimum employment rights.

Labour Inspectors began visiting dairy farms in Southland in August, with the work now being replicated in the Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki.

The visits are part of a long-term operation to identify breaches of employment law, with particular focus on a practice called seasonal averaging and the failure to keep accurate time and wage records.

Labour Inspectorate Central Region Manager Kris Metcalf says Inspectors will be gathering information on the business practices of dairy farms and also any impacts on migrant labour.

“The dairy industry and migrant exploitation are two key areas of focus for the Labour Inspectorate.

“Any practice of averaging out pay across a season, especially for those earning low salaries, is likely to breach the minimum wage rates set in legislation. Farmers need to ensure an accurate record of all time actually worked by farm workers is kept. Even workers on salaries can be vulnerable working long hours that do not equate to each hour, day or week paid meeting the minimum wage.

“It is also difficult to see how farmers who do not keep accurate time and wage records can meet their obligations for the payment of public and other holidays.”

Mr Metcalf says appropriate enforcement action will be taken should any breaches of employment law be identified, with non-compliance attracting fines of up to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a company.

“New Zealand’s reputation as a fair place to work is important to maintain. I would encourage anyone in this situation or who knows of people in this situation to phone our call centre on 0800 20 90 20 where concerns will be handled in a safe environment.”