Firm fined for deducting wages says it hasn't been told about the fine

The complaints alleged deductions were made from their wages without their knowledge. Photo credit: Getty

A Lower Hutt scaffolding firm has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 for unlawfully deducting wages, but the company claims it has not heard about the fine.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered Tiger Construction NZ Limited, trading as Tiger Scaffolds, to pay $21,000 in penalties for making unlawful deductions from employees' wages and another $21,692 as reimbursement for the deductions to three migrant employees.

The Labour Inspectorate, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), investigated the company after receiving complaints from the Philippines embassy on behalf of three workers.

The complaints alleged deductions were made from their wages without their knowledge.

The investigation showed the employer made deductions related to workers' accommodation and also for training, which they never attended.

Labour Inspectorate construction sector strategy lead Jeanie Borsboom said while employers could make deductions from employees' wages in certain cases, these deductions must be reasonable and agreed to by the employee.

"Employers must consult employees before making a deduction from their wages. It's not enough to have a deductions clause in the employment agreement. Even then, the deductions must be reasonable. For example, employers cannot charge employees for operational costs that should be covered by the business," she said in a press release.

"Employees who didn't agree to deductions or were pressured into agreeing can take a case to the ERA for as far back as six years."

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found these deductions were unlawful and unreasonable.

The employer failed to engage with the Labour Inspectorate stating they had other things to do and did not participate in the ERA's process. The employer has also been listed on the Immigration Stand-down list, preventing them from hiring new migrant workers.

"The workers have done the right thing in going to the Philippines Embassy. Migrants are entitled to the same rights as New Zealand workers and the inspectorate works closely with the embassy to ensure Filipino workers have access to information about their rights and are treated fairly in the workplace," Borsboom said.

When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for Tiger Scaffolding said he had not heard about the fine and declined to comment further.

Information about making deductions from pay can be found on the Employment New Zealand website. The website also has learning modules on minimum employment rights in multiple languages, including Tagalog.

  • Are you concerned about your employment situation? Phone Employment New Zealand on 0800 20 90 20.