It's time to return wages stolen from New Zealand workers

Up to $2.3 billion dollars worth of annual leave has been cheated from hundreds of thousands of workers in New Zealand.

Since a change to the Holidays Act in 2003, nearly all major employers and their payroll providers have been incorrectly calculating leave and denying workers their legal entitlements.

We are convinced that most workers in New Zealand are potentially owed some money.

The purpose of the Stop Wage Theft campaign is to fix this problem and to enable workers to claim the money they are legally owed by their current and previous employers.

Even though the problem exists at most workplaces in NZ, only around 150 major employers have been asked by the Ministry of Business, Industry and Enterprise (MBIE), the government agency responsible for enforcing legal minimum standards for workers, to pay the money back to their workers. MBIE officials have told Unite Union that they do not have the capacity to ensure all workplaces comply with the law, despite that being the role of the labour inspectorate.

It is probable that all the public sector employers will eventually pay back what they owe. But we need to make sure private-sector workers also get justice.

How to claim your money back

If you have worked at an employer at any point since 2003, your wages may have been miscalculated and you may be eligible for a backpay.

Click here to find your employer and find out if you're entitled to a backpay

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A Cynical Practice

While there may have been some genuine misunderstandings in the past, because all employers are now aware of the issues, if they are not taking steps to fix what has happened then they are now deliberately stealing from workers.

The leave was often calculated incorrectly because payroll systems were set up a certain way and it was easier not to change the system, rather than a mistake or confusion about the law, as many employers now claim.

The miscalculations, whether deliberate or not, became serious after a law change in 2003. Some employers have done the right thing and agreed to pay back money owed since then. Most others are claiming that legally they are only required to go back six years in remediation payments to their staff. Because many employers are beginning to pay leave correctly going forward, the longer they take to look at past issues, the less they have to pay workers if they only go back 6 years.

What Is To Be Done?

Just 22 payroll providers provide services to 95% of employers.

The government could require these providers and their clients to take action to calculate what is owed to workers. A generous assessment could be used rather than paying millions of dollars to big accountancy firms which most smaller employers can't afford to do.

These payroll providers have either misled their clients as to their legal obligations or been accessories in helping these employers steal wages from their workers.