Seven of 12 Otago and Southland dairy farms visited by
labour inspectors were breaching employment law, the Ministry
of Business, Innovation and Employment said.
The ministry's Labour Inspectorate visited two Otago dairy
farms and 10 in Southland between December and early April
during the second phase of its national dairy strategy.
Seven of the farms - one in Otago and six in Southland - were
in breach of employment law.
About 70% of the 44 farms visited in New Zealand were
breaching employment law.
Labour Inspectorate central region manager Kris Metcalf said
all seven breaches in Otago and Southland were because of
inadequate recording of employees' hours.
''The problem with poor time records is that it opens up the
possibility of workers being underpaid,'' he said.
''This is why it's one of the issues the Labour Inspectorate
cracks down on.''
''Enforceable undertakings'' were issued as a result of the
breaches, which required farmers to take steps to address the
issue within 28 days, he said.
''Farmers need to lift their game in complying with minimum
employment rights and can expect a strong enforcement
response from the next phase [of the national dairy
strategy],'' Mr Metcalf said.
''There are financial penalties for not complying with
employment laws, of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000
Federated Farmers' Otago president Stephen Korteweg said it
was ''always disappointing'' to hear of breaches, but the
first step to solving the problem should be education.
It was ''heartening'' to hear enforceable undertakings were
issued as a first step rather than financial penalties, he
Most farmers would have breached the law ''more through
ignorance as opposed to blatantly not adhering''.
''There needs to be a little bit of common sense,'' Mr
''I don't condone people over-working workers on a common
basis but there needs to be a little bit of space for overs
and unders ... with farming not being a nine-to-five job,
there's going to be unders and overs.''
However, the inspections should serve as a wake-up call for
those flouting the law, he said.
Federated Farmers employment spokeswoman Katie Milne said the
organisation could help farmers comply with their obligations
The Labour Party's labour spokesman, Andrew Little, said it
was ''disappointing that one of the sectors in our economy
held up as hugely successful should be so lax at observing
''Having a written employment agreement is not hard and
observing it should be seen not as a grudging chore but as
showing respect for your farm workers,'' he said.
Mr Metcalf said 13 inspectors carried out inspections from
Kaitaia to Invercargill and found 31 farms breached
In one case, an Auckland farmer was required to pay a worker
$6000 in arrears.
More than 20 enforceable undertakings and one improvement
notice were issued nationwide, he said.
The next phase in the national dairy strategy would focus on
farms employing migrant workers.