Posted by Tony Sung on February 27 2024 in News

In an era where global migration is a common phenomenon, ensuring the fair treatment and protection of migrant workers has become an imperative task for governments worldwide. New Zealand, known for its progressive policies, has taken a significant step forward with the implementation of the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Act 2023 (the Act). Enacted on January 6, 2024, this legislation aims to shield migrant workers from exploitation and uphold their rights in the workplace.

migrant workers

Previously, only labour inspectors could access employment documents. The Act now extends the power to immigration officers to access employment documents.

The Act creates the following new employment infringement offences:

  • allowing a person who is not entitled under this Act to work in the employer’s service to do that work;
  • employing a person in a manner that is inconsistent with a work-related condition of that person’s visa; and
  • failing to provide the required employment documents within 10 working days of the date on which the requirement is received from immigration officers.

In addition, immigration officers are granted the power to issue an infringement notice with a fee of $1,000 (or $3,000 in the case of a corporate body or another entity) where an employer has committed employment infringement offences listed above.

Another significant change is the Act now enabling the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to publish information on the employers who have committed employment infringement offences. It is likely that this will become a severe obstacle in maintaining the employer’s accredited employer status with Immigration New Zealand. Another consideration is that the list will be published in the Gazette, which means it will become publicly available.

The Act also makes it possible to disqualify a director if that person has been convicted of an offence under section 351 of the Immigration Act 2009 for “exploitation of unlawful employees and temporary workers” and the offence was enabled by, or otherwise related to, the use of a company.

Lastly, it is worth noting that although the new National-led government has extended 90-day trial periods to all employers, the government chose not to apply this to accredited employers. This appears to have been caused by the need to protect migrant workers who are more vulnerable to the trial periods provision. Migrant workers who have travelled to New Zealand to work are particularly vulnerable. Accordingly, it is extremely important to make sure that there is no provision for trial periods in migrant workers’ employment agreements. Failure to do so may risk the employer having its employer accreditation status revoked.

If you would like more information regarding the above or have any questions, please contact us.

DeAnne Brabant | Partner |

Tony Sung | Associate |

Isaac Eustace-Smith | Solicitor |

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.