New Zealand Law Society - Asparagus boss failed to heed Labour Inspectorate warnings

Asparagus boss failed to heed Labour Inspectorate warnings

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A labour hire company working on asparagus farms in the Waikato must pay $58,818 after being caught twice by the Labour Inspectorate failing to keep employment records.

BBS Horticulture Ltd has been penalised $57,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for failing to retain employment agreements, or keep records of wage, time, holiday or leave, and ordered to pay $1,818 in arrears to former employees.

The company has a history of non-compliance, with the Inspectorate first visiting BBS in November 2013 and discovering many employees were working in breach of their visa conditions, and without records of employment.

The Inspectorate gave BBS an opportunity to fix their employment practices when an improvement notice was issued, and time and wage records supplied by BBS a few months later suggested they had complied.

When the Inspectorate conducted a follow-up audit in late 2015, it was revealed that BBS had disregarded their obligations and reverted back to non-compliant practices. BBS were yet again unable to supply wage records.

The extent of the non-compliance was made even more apparent when the Labour Inspectorate made a further visit to BBS in October 2016 to find that 11 Chinese employees, one working in breach of their visa, had no individual employment agreements, or timesheets.

When the Labour Inspectorate questioned BBS sole shareholder and director Davinder Singh about the 11 people working for him on this visit, he could not name a single employee.

“BBS Horticulture Ltd received multiple warnings along with advice on how to get their practices up to scratch, but they continued to ignore their obligations, and showed themselves to be completely unfit to be an employer,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

“Without records employers may be unable to prove they’re providing employees with their minimum employment entitlements, such as the minimum wage, so we take these kinds of breaches very seriously.”

In addition to the $58,818 in penalties and arrears, BBS is now on a 24-month stand down period restricting their access to migrant labour.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, to call the contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.