What is the change? New Zealand authorities have announced new immigration-related penalties for employers who violate minimum employment standards.

What does the change mean? Effective 1 April 2017, employers who violate minimum employment standards—such as wage and hour laws—may be barred from recruiting migrant labour for periods ranging from six months to two years.  

  • Implementation time frame: 1 April 2017.
  • Who is affected: Employers in New Zealand employing or recruiting foreign workers.
  • Business impact: The new penalties could significantly impact the ability of employers to recruit migrant labour if they are found to violate minimum employment standards.

Background: In announcing the new measures, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said it is “unacceptable” that “employers who exploit migrant workers are still able to recruit from the international labour market.” Authorities have said they will not impose stand-down periods on employers found to have made minor breaches, especially if they have demonstrated a desire to comply with employment standards. Those found to have made more serious breaches, however, could face fines and stand-down periods of six months, one year, 18 months or two years, depending on the severity of the violation. Employers who incur penalties between now and 1 April will not be assessed with a formal stand-down period, but will have violations counted against them when visa applications are considered.

BAL Analysis: The new penalties are a sign of how serious New Zealand is about stopping employment violations, and abuse of migrant labourers in particular. While employers found to have made minor mistakes will not face stand-down periods, those found to have committed more serious violations could have their migration programs seriously hindered.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

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