Temporary migrant workers will be better protected by sweeping changes to prevent exploitation and improve enforcement, say Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Minister for Workplace Relations Andrew Little, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

Changes will help prevent migrant exploitation, protect migrants, and enforce the law.

“As set out in the coalition agreement, protecting migrant workers from exploitation is a priority for the Government.

“Due to the impacts of COVID-19, many migrants who are on temporary visas and unable to return home may currently find that they are in a more vulnerable position than before the pandemic arrived on our shores.

“This announcement helps migrant workers to better understand their rights and responsibilities when working in New Zealand and provides a clear avenue for help should they find themselves in an exploitative situation,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

“Exploitation is an issue which affects all of us. It causes financial and mental harm to workers, and it also harms legitimate businesses who are undercut by these practices and damages New Zealand’s reputation as a fair place to work, live and do business,” Minister of Workplace Relations Andrew Little said.

The Government is investing $50 million over four years to support the implementation of these changes.

“To make it easier for migrant workers to report and leave exploitative employment, we will be setting up a new dedicated free-phone number, online reporting and triaging functions. These functions are expected to be in place by mid-2021 and will be monitored by trained and responsive staff,” Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said.

“Exploited migrants whose visas are tied to exploitative employers will be able to be granted another temporary visa which enables them to find alternative employment.

“We are also investing in additional labour inspectors and immigration investigators to ensure that robust action is taken against exploitative employers and to develop an information and education action plan so migrant workers better understand their rights and how to report exploitation,” Kris Faafoi said.

The changes will be implemented in stages over the next few years. They include:

  • Creating a new visa that will support migrants to leave exploitative situations without negatively affecting their immigration status.
  • Setting up a new dedicated free phone number, online reporting and better triaging to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation.
  • Higher standards will be required from franchises, labour hire companies and similar businesses where migrant exploitation often occurs.
  • Disqualifying people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company.
  • Preventing exploitative employers from accessing migrant labour in the future by expanding the existing employer stand down list.
  • Establishing new immigration and employment infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
  • Notifying impacted migrant workers that their employer has been stood down.

Ministers noted there was overwhelming support for the Government to take action to address temporary migrant worker exploitation when consulting on proposals for change last year.

Government is now drafting a bill to enact legislative reforms.