New measures to stop migrant workers exploitation

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Employment Law protects even those working illegally in New Zealand

Supplied Content
Wellington, July 10, 2021

The government has announced a series of measures to end the exploitation of migrant workers and international students, along with an allocation of $50 million over the next four years.

The new regulations, which came into force on July 1, 2021 include a new visa (valid up to six months) to support migrants to leave exploitative situations quickly and remain lawfully in New Zealand.

As well as a dedicated freephone 0800-200088 between 8 am and 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays and a website based form to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation, the changes will enable Employment New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to respond to reports of exploitation faster.

Migrant Exploitation defined

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.

The government notification has advised migrant workers who fear immediate physical danger, to call 111 and ask for the Police.

“Migrant employees have the right to (a) written employment agreements (b) minimum wage, if they are 16 years or older (c) paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks (d) sick leave, bereavement leave, parental leave, and domestic violence leave (e) public holidays. Migrant workers, like all others, are entitled to 1.5 times their normal pay rate plus another day off, if they work on a public holiday that is otherwise a normal working day and four weeks of paid annual leave,” the notification said.

Migrant workers also have the right to ask for payslips, be treated fairly if they lose their job, even by dismissal.

“Even if you are working illegally, you are entitled to these rights. Employers can be fined and lose the right to employ overseas workers for breaching your rights.”

Image from Employment New Zealand Brochure


Common types of exploitation

Migrant workers may be deemed to be victims of exploitation if they do not have a written employment agreement (employment contract); are forced to pay a fee to get their job; are asked to give back part of all of their wages to their employers; are 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 their boss to say that they have worked less hours than they 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 their workplace because the doors and windows are locked, or must ask for permission to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet.

The Complaint process

Employment New Zealand considers all complaint from migrants.

“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (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 six 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,” a notification issued by MBIE said.

Anyone who sees or suspects a breach of minimum employment rights can report on 0800-200088 between 8 am and 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

They would however be obliged to complete an online reporting form.

Source: Employment New Zealand and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Sponsored by

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