Immigration NZ launches new crackdown on worker exploitation

Employers who break the rules are set to be named and shamed.
Employers who break the rules are set to be named and shamed. Photo credit: Newshub.

Te Ratonga Manene/Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced it'll soon crack down on employers who take advantage of migrant workers.

From next Thursday, April 11, INZ will have the power to issue infringement notices to employers, with the aim of addressing "non-compliance" with immigration law.

Stephanie Greathead, INZ's national compliance manager, said the agency will be able to penalise businesses if they: employ someone in breach of their visa conditions, employ someone unlawfully, or fail to comply with a 10-day information request.

"Non-compliance with these three requirements now has immediate consequences," she said in a statement. 

She said previously, the main deterrent was taking employers through the criminal court system.

"While that is still something we will continue to do, being able to issue employers with infringement penalties allows us to take immediate action against employers who aren't complying," she added.

Only a small number of employers break the rules, Greathead stressed.

What are the penalties like?

Infringement penalties can include:

  • A minimum fine of $1000;
  • Loss of accredited employer or Recognised Seasonal Employer status; and
  • Being stood down temporarily from sponsoring further visas for migrant workers.

More serious breaches may lead to criminal charges.

During the stand-down period of either six months (one infringement) or 12 months (several infringements at once), employers can't support new visa applications or get their accreditation back.

However, they'll still be able to hire migrants on open work visas while stood down if they prove they've fixed the issues.

When the stand-down period ends, the employer must prove they've "rectified the matter" before they can get their accreditation back.

"We will be publishing a stand down list on the Immigration website naming those employers who have been penalised and stood down," said Greathead.

"This adds a layer of transparency."