Thursday, April 25, 2024

Migrant worker protection Bill introduced

The Government has today introduced a Bill designed to protect migrant workers from exploitation.

Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Priyanca Radhakrishnan says the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill will strengthen current measures, and introduce new ones to crack down on employer non-compliance.

“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,” said Ms Radhakrishnan.

“Those convicted of migrant exploitation will also be disqualified from managing or directing a company, with a public register naming those individuals.”

She said protecting migrant workers from exploitation was a priority for the Government.

“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.”

The Government is also commencing a community-led education pilot and introducing worker protection legislation to the house today.

“Research released today shows that migrants most at risk of exploitation lack basic knowledge of their employment rights. We are making this information more accessible to migrant workers and those who employ them,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

“Working with community and industry networks that already support migrant workers and employers of migrants is an obvious step we can take to bridge this education gap.

The Bill will introduce the remaining changes from the Government’s Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review completed in 2020, including establishing an infringement regime.

This builds on the first tranche of changes that came into effect in July 2021 and included a dedicated 0800 number and reporting and triaging web form, 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,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

“The Bill’s proposals also supplement the many improvements and initiatives the government has taken in recent years to improve migrant rights, whether it’s through the immigration rebalance or lifting wage requirements long term.

“Just earlier this week the government announced sick leave provisions to be introduced to our RSE workers, in addition to minimum wage requirements introduced during the pandemic. But with a full review of the scheme under way, we know there is still more to do.

“I encourage engagement with the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill as it goes through the Select Committee process. 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,” she said.

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