Record Keeping Fundamental for Employers


A recent investigation by the Labour Inspectorate found that 28% of farms visited failed to keep adequate records. Labour Inspectorate regional manager Natalie Gardiner said this was as “an improvement on our previous visits”.  In our view, 28% is not good enough.

An employer’s record keeping obligations are straightforward.

Employers must keep a wage and time record that complies with the Employment Relations Act 2000 and, in some cases, a holiday and leave record that complies with the Holidays Act 2003.  This legal requirement is not new and should by now be well known.

These records must include information like the number of hours worked each day in a pay period, wages paid to the employee each pay period, the employee’s current entitlement to annual holidays and sick leave, and the agreed cash value of any board or lodgings.

Farmers can access a range of resources. For example, wage, time, holiday and leave records are kept by some payroll software packages, and templates are available from Federated Farmers and from www.employment.govt.nz.

Good records will keep an employer safe from penalties for breach of record keeping obligations, and protected if there is a dispute about an employee’s pay or leave.

Record keeping is one of the fundamental obligations under New Zealand employment law that are called “employment standards.”

Other employment standards include the obligation to keep a copy of each employee’s employment agreement (and provide it to the employee on request), the obligation to provide appropriate facilities for breastfeeding in the workplace, and the obligation to provide adequate rest and meal breaks.

Other basic and longstanding requirements of New Zealand employment law include an employee’s entitlement to annual holidays, public holidays, sick leave and bereavement leave, the minimum wage, and for wages to be paid in accordance with the Wages Protection Act 1983. These are “minimum entitlement provisions”.  

The consequences of breaching employment standards or minimum entitlement provisions can be significant. The maximum pecuniary penalty for serious breaches is the greater of $100,000 or 3 times the financial gain from the breach.

If you breach a minimum entitlement provision, or employment standard, you will also be placed on the Labour Inspectorate’s list of “non-compliant employers”. Employers on this list are prevented from supporting a visa application to recruit migrant labour for up to two years. 

Employment standards and minimum entitlement provisions are not new obligations. It is unacceptable that 28% of farmers are failing to comply with basic, longstanding requirements of New Zealand employment law, and incredible that a 28% rate of non-compliance represents an “improvement”.  In this environment, farmers’ compliance must improve. 

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Sean Maskill