Stories about employers exploiting migrant workers by removing
their passports, making them live in substandard housing and work
for much less than the minimum wage have appeared with
disheartening frequency in the media lately.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has
issued warnings to a number of employers for exploitation and
employment of illegal workers, but has been powerless to do
As a result, the Government is about to introduce substantial
changes to New Zealand's immigration laws, which will have a direct
impact on all employers of migrant workers.
The changes are likely to come into effect later this year, and
- unannounced visits by Immigration Officers,
- the right to enter and search an employer's premises without a
- fines of up to $100,000.00, and
- up to seven years in jail
for employers found in breach of immigration legislation.
Further, any employer who is found to be exploiting their
migrant workers who themselves holds a resident visa may have their
visa revoked and become liable for deportation.
The proposed extension of Immigration Officers' search and entry
powers will not just apply to employers who have been suspected of
exploiting migrant labour.
Immigration Officers will be entitled to enter workplaces to:
- talk to any people present, including employees, in order to
identify any offending,
- search for unlawful workers,
- check documents, and
- ensure that migrant employees and their employers are complying
with the legislation by, for example, checking that an employee is
doing the job listed in his or her work visa.
The severity of the penalties, along with the increased level of
powers given to Immigration Officers, reflect the Government's view
that this type of offending is serious.
Therefore, it is more important than ever before for employers
to ensure that they have systems in place before hiring to check
that migrant workers are legally permitted to work in the role they
have applied for, and that employers track employees' visa expiry
dates during employment.
If you employ migrant workers and would like further advice on
how these proposed changes may affect your business, or if you
would like advice on immigration matters generally, please contact
Michelle Carabine - firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like advice on employment law matters, please
contact Shima Grice - email@example.com.