The Employment Relations Authority has recently ordered an employer to pay over $43,000 for failing to properly pay six migrant workers.

All six workers had signed written employment agreements and worked various jobs in the construction industry. The workers had obtained visas and moved from China to work in New Zealand.

Each of the workers had signed an agreement which stated they would work 40 hours per week at a rate of $24.00 per hour. However, the workers kept their own wage and time records, which they claimed showed that they had actually been working 49 to 50 hours a week.

This meant the workers were being paid around $18.00 per hour, an amount below what they were promised, and below the minimum wage. The employer had not kept full and complete wage or time records.

The workers claimed that they had not been paid for any public holidays, the ones that they had and had not worked. The employer had also made various deductions from the employee’s wages, including deducting $160 for tools from one worker’s wages.

The Authority had to determine whether the employer had underpaid the six workers and made illegal deductions from their wages.

The Authority decided that there was not enough evidence to confirm that each worker had worked 49 to 50 hours every week, but they likely had some weeks. The employer produced some evidence that the employees were working 41 to 43 hour some weeks, and less than 40 hours other weeks.

The Authority could not therefore make out the claim that the employer had been underpaying them for hours worked, or for making illegal wage deductions.

However, the Authority did decide that the employer had failed to provide any proof that they had paid the employees for annual and public holidays. The Authority decided that, based on a 40-hour work week, each employee was owed a minimum of $6,094 in wage arrears.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay each of the employees their holiday and annual leave entitlements. The employer had to pay over $43,700 in repayments, as well as interest on that amount.

It is important to be aware of your legal obligations as an employer. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors