Businesses that breach employment standards could be “named and shamed” under Government proposals.
Some employers could also face jail sentences, steep fines, bans on doing business or seizure of equipment.
The options are laid out in a paper released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Labour Minister Simon Bridges wants to crack down on migrant worker exploitation.
About 17 per cent of employees report that they are not getting one of more of the minimum legal entitlements, including holiday entitlement, minimum wage or having an employment agreement.
The Labour Inspectorate says it is seeing growing evidence of “more serious and intentional” breaches, such as the exploitation of migrant workers and vulnerable groups.
In a discussion document, the ministry proposes a series of tougher sanctions.
It says current penalties – a maximum $10,000 fine for an individual and $20,000 for a company – are not high when used.
Between January 2008 and March 2013, labour inspectors took 69 cases to the Employment Relations Authority, and the average penalty was $2826.
Officials are canvassing opinion on the options, which include naming and shaming businesses that breach standards.
This would be for those who deliberately breach the law with “serious and harmful effects” or those who commit “moderate to serious” breaches. A similar policy was adopted in Britain in 2011.
Another option would extend financial penalties to deter unlawful behaviour and to ensure there is no financial gain from non-compliance.
Fines would also be targeted at individuals to stamp out “phoenixing” – when directors wind up a company and begin another to avoid enforcement.
I support all of these.
Most employers are good employers who treat staff well.
There are a small minority who are exploitative, especially of migrants. They breach labour and human rights laws. I think we do need to be tougher with the very bad employers.