Government introduces Worker Protection Bill to 'stamp out' migrant exploitation in Aotearoa

The Government has announced a Worker Protection Bill that is designed to protect migrant workers from exploitation.

The Bill will be put in place to introduce the remaining changes from the Government's Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review, which was completed in 2020.

Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Priyanca Radhakrishnan said the Bill is an extensive approach to stamping out migrant exploitation in Aotearoa.

"We need to ensure we educate migrant workers so that they know their rights, better protect those who have been exploited by providing further access to support and hold exploitative employers to account."

According to the Government, the new Bill includes:

  • Offence and penalty regimes significantly strengthened
  • New infringement offences for non-compliance
  • Public register of individuals and businesses that are found guilty of migrant exploitation
  • New community-led pilot to educate migrant workers and employers about employment rights
  • Implemented reporting tools to successfully bring exploitation out of the shadows
  • Take-up of protective visas continues to safeguard workers reporting exploitation.

Radhakrishnan said it will strengthen the current measures already in place, as well as introducing new ones.

"Introducing infringement offences will ensure that even lower-level offending such as refusing to provide employment documentation, are dealt with before it becomes more serious."

People who are convicted of exploiting migrants will also be disqualified from managing or directing a company and their names will be put on a public register.

Changes to the protection measures for migrant workers were introduced in July 2021 and included the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa, which has seen over 119 visas granted in the year ending July 2022 to safeguard workers and liaison support services for victims of migrant exploitation.

"These initiatives have resulted in more people coming forward to report migrant exploitation with 956 reports between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022 – up from just 173 in the previous year," Radhakrishnan said.

Radhakrishnan added the Worker Protection Bill is a step in the right direction to ensuring migrant workers are treated equally to New Zealand workers.

"We need to work collectively to stamp out migrant exploitation and ensure that those who come to New Zealand to work are treated fairly and with dignity."