An employer has been ordered to pay $1.55m after being found to have taken advantage of five employees. The employer was also banned from operating a business for three years. The Labour inspectorate launched an investigation into the employer’s practices after multiple complaints of over working and underpaying were made by five workers.

The employees began working for the employer after arriving in New Zealand. Each employee worked upwards of 65 hours a week but were paid for far fewer. Collectively, the employer underpaid the employees by $516,378.

The employer also breached a number of other employment standards. One employee didn’t get any days off during his three months of employment, and was forced to give the employer his bank card and pin number.

Another employee worked seven days a week for two years. This same employee was forced to work through an injury, and was made to pay $6,000 to the employer for no justifiable reason.

The Labour Inspectorate and the employer reached an agreement that the employer would pay back the wages that were owed to the employees.

After this agreement was reached the Inspectorate decided to seek penalties against the employer, due to the severity of the breaches.

The employer was ordered to personally pay $415,000, whilst the company itself was required to pay $1.138m in fines for the breaches of employment standards.

Four of the employees were granted $50,000 out of these fines, and one employee was granted $55,000 as a result of extra hardship that he was suffering.

If there is confusion around what the required employment standards are, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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Alan Knowsley & Matthew Binnie

Litigation Team