Immigration NZ announced a new visa with immediate effect.
The visa, called the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa (MEPV), was created to help protect migrant workers from employers whose practices or behaviours pose a direct or indirect threat to their well-being – financially, mentally, physically or socially.
There have been situations where migrants, particularly those with visas that are conditional upon employment with a specific employer, have been vulnerable to abusive employer practices for fear of losing the job and putting their and their family’s ability to stay and work in NZ at risk.
Some employers breach employment, immigration or health & safety rules through omissions, errors or oversights but others practice blatant disregard for these rules and/or intentionally exploit migrant workers because they are vulnerable.
The MEPV is a 6 month open work visa for migrant workers and for those (partners and dependents) who already hold a visa based on their relationship to the person for whom the visa is granted.
The visa is designed to allow migrant workers a ‘safe space’ to leave the employment without fear of losing lawful NZ status and to give them time to find alternative work. Importantly, it also exposes employers who undertake these practices.
The migrant/dependents are not required to take provide medicals or police certificates with the application, nor is there a fee.
Example of Common Types and Situations
The types of breaches vary from potential errors or oversights on the side of the employer to blatant and intentional exploitation of workers which may include (but not be limited to) situations where an employer:
- forces a worker to do work which is not part of their job;
- requires excessive hours of work and not providing breaks, not paying for the work and/or underpaying for the work;
- requires the migrant to pay to be given a job;
- doesn’t allow the worker to leave their workplace;
- has the worker perform counter to their visa conditions;
- asks the worker to lie about their work situation;
- keeps the migrants passport;
- makes unwelcome sexual gestures towards the worker
Migrant workers are legally entitled to the same employment law protections as Kiwi workers so breaches to the related acts could be considered exploitation. These include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- not being given an Employment Agreement (and in advance of starting work to seek independent advice)
- makes changes to your work that aren’t supported in that agreement (pay, position, hours of work)
- Not being given breaks, not being paid for leave or not even being given leave
- The employer threatens to call INZ to end your work visa
What to do if you’re in this situation or think you may be
If you believe you are in the situation where you are exploited and want to apply for a MEPV, you would first report the specifics of the situation to Employment NZ who will assess the situation and verify its credibility.
All situations are evaluated. There may be some issues that are deemed minor or insignificant breaches that are not constant and easily remedied and will not be eligible for the MEPV but may be addressed with employer education or training.
If you agree to be contacted by Employment NZ, this will be done within 3 days. You shouldn’t be scared to make a report as this visa was set up to avoid situations where you are penalised for reporting issues.
You can do that here or call 0800 200 088. You can also call us and discuss your concerns for you or someone else on their behalf – we will not charge for this consultation or for MERV application assistance.