An investigation into employees working under the government Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme has revealed that workers have been subject to a number of breaches of required employment standards.

The investigation revealed that workers were living in poor housing conditions, being forced to pay their employer for meals rather than having the ability to cook for themselves, as well as deductions being taken out of their salaries to pay off debts, with no explanation of how these debts were incurred by the employees.

As well as these breaches, there were numerous instances where employees were warned against joining a workers union. This is a restriction on an employee’s right to be represented, meaning that not only do they lose collective bargaining power to improve working conditions, they also lose their support if an employment problem should arise.

There were even instances where employers put restrictions on how employees spent their free time, by prohibiting activities such as consuming alcohol, or entering into personal relationships outside of work. Some employees who took part in such activities had their employment status threatened, with one female employee being forced to take a pregnancy test under threat of termination.

Finally, the investigation found that some of the workers had been denied sick leave and were told to keep working, even though they were suffering from illness. One worker who reportedly decided to take a day off sick was still docked pay for transport to and from the worksite.

These are examples of clear and intentional breaches of not only employment, but human rights standards. When operating a business it is crucial to ensure that your practices comply with the required standard. A failure to do so will lead to avoidable, and expensive consequences.

If there is confusion around the rights of employees, or the obligations of an employer, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley & Matthew Binnie

Litigation Team