Temporary migrant worker exploitation review

We are leading an in-depth policy and operational review to better understand temporary migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand and identify impactful and enduring solutions.

About the review

MBIE is leading a policy and operational review of Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation in New Zealand.

The goal of the Review is to reduce the exploitation of temporary migrant workers, including international students. Its objectives are to:

  • Prevent the occurrence of workplace (and other) conditions that might enable temporary migrant worker exploitation

  • Protect temporary migrant workers in New Zealand and enable them to leave exploitative employment

  • Enforce immigration and employment law to deter employer non-compliance through a fit-for-purpose offence and penalty regime.

The Government has announced that it is investing $50 million to implement a number of changes.

Even though this Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review focuses on temporary migrant workers, including international students, many of the proposals to reduce their exploitation could benefit everyone in work, including New Zealand permanent residents and citizens.

Upcoming changes

The Government has announced a number of changes to be implemented over the coming years. These include:

Higher standards required from franchises, labour hire companies and similar businesses where migrant exploitation often occurs.

Establishing a free-phone line and dedicated reporting and triaging function to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation. This will also increase our understanding of the nature and extent of migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand.

A new visa for exploited migrant workers to ensure that they can safely leave exploitative situations without jeopardising their immigration status.

The changes will be supported by a substantial increase in funding for compliance and enforcement through Employment New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand. This will make sure that more reports are investigated and that exploitative employers will know that serious action will be taken against them.

Read an overview of the changes [PDF, 409 KB] 

Next steps

These changes will begin to be implemented from next year. It is expected that the 0800 reporting line and new visa will be in place by mid-2021.

Policy work will begin to enable legislative change where needed.  This includes to:

  • Introduce a duty on third parties with significant control or influence over an employer to take reasonable steps to prevent a breach of employment standards occurring.
  • Disqualify people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company
  • Establish three new immigration infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
  • Allow Labour Inspectors to issue an infringement notice where employers fail to provide requested documents in a reasonable timeframe.

Other changes will be implemented through immigration instructions, included in existing work programmes, or supported by other MBIE teams.

Background

In September 2018, Cabinet agreed to progress an action item in the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First - to take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students. The Review is a multi-year programme of work that complements other work being done in MBIE and across government agencies, including on the employer-assisted temporary work visa policy.

Read the Minister’s media release announcing the review(external link)

Read the Cabinet paper that began the review: Addressing temporary migrant exploitation [PDF, 2.1 MB]

In October 2019, we consulted on a set of proposed changes that will prevent migrant exploitation, protect exploited migrants, and better enforce appropriate working conditions and immigration obligations. Consultation closed on 27 November.

As part of the Review, we commissioned wide-ranging research on the nature of temporary migrant worker exploitation, and the gaps and opportunities to address this. This research was conducted through a third party, to provide an independent and confidential space to hear the experiences of migrant and international student groups, and to hear from unions and businesses.

Read the independent research and other background documents relating to the review(external link)

We also established a consultation group representing migrants, businesses, unions and international students. The group has provided perspectives as the review developed ideas.

Other supporting documentation will be made available shortly.

Who to contact about exploitation

To report migrant exploitation, contact the MBIE Service Centre on 0800 20 90 20

To report anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or fill out a form on crimestoppers-nz.org(external link)

To report people trafficking, call New Zealand Police 105 or 111 (if it is an emergency).

Last updated: 05 August 2020