New bill gives migrant workers greater protection

'Those convicted of migrant exploitation will also be disqualified from managing or directing a company'

New bill gives migrant workers greater protection

The New Zealand government has introduced a new bill that will protect migrant workers from exploitation and ensure that violating employers will be punished accordingly. The legislation, called the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill, has been introduced as New Zealand opens its borders to more migrant workers in a bid to reduce labour shortage.

"This bill will strengthen current measures and introduce new ones to crack down on employer non-compliance," said Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Priyanca Radhakrishnan in a statement.

Read more: $150K fine for employer's 'abhorrent' exploitation of migrant workers

Radhakrishnan said the bill introduces "infringement offences" that will ensure low-level violations, such as refusal to provide employment documentation, are dealt with.

"Those convicted of migrant exploitation will also be disqualified from managing or directing a company, with a public register naming those individuals," said the associate minister.

In addition, the bill also wants to educate migrant workers on their rights as employees to ensure their protection.

"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," said Radhakrishnan.

The associate minister referred to the Kantar Public research that showed a third of workers are "at risk of exploitation because of a lack of knowledge of their employment rights or because they are more reliant on a job for financial or visa reasons."

According to the report, while most migrants are satisfied and grateful for their employment, this gratitude could be what causes them to downplay the employment issues they face.

Read more: Diversity Works NZ says employers must do more to stamp out bullying of migrant workers

"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," said Radhakrishnan.

"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."

The introduction of the bill comes as the government recently ordered employers to grant sick leave entitlements to their migrant workers. According to Radhakrishnan, the proposals within the legislation support the "many improvements and initiatives" from the government on migrant rights.

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