Employment Law

Six years without holiday

Stuff reported that an Asian baker has been ordered to pay his three illegal workers more than $220,000 in backpay. It appears that the employer breached every important piece of employment law legislation under the sun, from noy paying  minimum wage to not allowing the employees to take any holidays. That all three of them were Thai nationals living in the country illegally comes as no surprise:


So its all good? No, it isn’t, and as usual, the essential bits of the story are hidden somewhere between the lines. For once, the employer didn’t even bother to respond or attend the hearing. No one knows where he lives and whether he is still in the country. The employees have also been deported back to Thailand.  Even if the employer can be found, it appears that he is a sole trader with no further assets to speak of and will never be able to pay even 1/10th of the amount awarded. And even if he had assets, the determination would need to be enforced, because all the Authority does is making a ‘determination’. Its up to the claimant to then enforce it, which is a tedious affair and a legal minefield for lay people.

Determinations by the Employment Relations Authority are enforceable by the District Court. But this requires among others an address for service so that the enforcement papers can be served on the employer. Even if an address could be found for the missing employer  – he might not show up at court later for the examination hearing.  A bailiff can, in theory, seize the debtor’s chattels and property, but it is for the claimant to detail what property. And sending the bailiff to the debtor requires another application, which will take time, during which the debtor might disappear again.

Cases like this are a pointless exercise and one cant help but feel for the (uneducated) claimants who have been told  they are entitled to an enormous amount of money, only to find out that they have no chance at all to ever receive it. 

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