9 Jun 2016

Employer told to pay ex-workers $161k holiday pay

10:21 am on 9 June 2016

A kiwifruit harvester in Bay of Plenty must pay $161,343.67 in unpaid holiday pay to 121 former workers, many of whom have since returned overseas.

Haywood Green Kiwifruit

Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Freemind Enterprize has been fined an additional $65,000 by the Employment Relations Authority for multiple employment breaches.

After an investigation by the Labour Inspectorate in 2013, the company was found to have not provided its workers with written employment agreements, paid them holiday pay, nor kept full records on wages, time worked and holidays.

Read the decision and a full list of those owed

One worker was not paid at all except a one-off $1000 sum which the company sent home to his family in India. Freemind was ordered to pay him $7821,40 within 28 days.

Most other workers were paid the minimum wage.

During an interview with a Labour Inspector, company director Gurmail Lally admitted all his employees were casual and he did not know their wages had to include a holiday pay component.

He told the Inspector he had not provided written employment agreements to all but one employee.

"It is not acceptable for employers to employ staff and ignore their statutory obligations. Mr Lally was fully aware of his obligations as an employer," the authority said.

"Mr Lally has shown little or no remorse for his failure to provide employment agreements."

The company's lawyers argued against claims being brought against it on behalf of some people who were no longer living in New Zealand and who had not spoken to the Inspector.

However, the authority disagreed.

"Employers not meeting their minimum obligations under the law cannot be allowed to profit from their wrong," it said.

Inland Revenue was helping the Inspectorate track down those who were owed money overseas.

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