The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a claim by the Labour Inspector for a penalty to be imposed against an employer who operated a milk distribution business.

The employer signed an employment agreement bearing incorrect details relating to their employee’s job title and hourly rate in order to get her a work visa. In return the employer required the employee to pay $7,000 plus an additional $284.45 a week to cover her tax.

The ERA found that the employee had only received $2,924.59 of the $13,380 wages owed to her. Consequently, the employee had been paid only $4.37 an hour.

The ERA held that the employer must have known that what they were doing was illegal and found that they had seriously undermined the integrity of Immigration New Zealand. Consequently, the ERA held that the employer had committed a serious breach of their statutory obligations.

The ERA awarded a $5,000 penalty, to be paid in 19 installments of $250. The ERA took into account the employer’s remorse and the fact that they had paid back all of the money owing to the employee. The ERA found that despite only one employee being affected by their actions, the breach had occurred throughout the employee’s employment and was not a one-off event. The ERA also noted the adverse financial impact on the employee and her vulnerable status as a migrant worker, and considered a penalty just in order to punish and deter others from engaging in such unacceptable conduct.