Employers warned against charging recruitment costs


Four businesses have been ordered to pay penalties after charging new workers for costs related to their employment

This follows a case brought to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), by the Labour Inspectorate against four Christchurch grocery stores.

The businesses charged five of their employees for costs related to their employment, including the cost of listing online advertisements and administration fees for filling out Immigration New Zealand forms required for obtaining the workers’ visas.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager and retail sector strategy lead, Loua Ward, says this equates to an employment premium and is illegal under the Wage Protection Act 1983.

“A premium can be a payment the employer charges the worker in exchange for a job offer, or it can be more subtle, such as employers trying to recoup recruitment-related costs or other business expenses such as theft by customers.

“Whether charged up front or deducted from worker’s wages, these practices are illegal. Charging premiums disadvantages employees, particularly vulnerable migrants and young people, and undercuts businesses that are fronting these costs themselves.”

The four businesses accepted that they committed breaches of employment standards. The premiums have now been repaid to the five employees and the businesses changed their systems to ensure compliance. The ERA also ordered a penalty of $3,000 – $500 to be paid to each employee, and $500 to the Crown.

“With the adverse effects of COVID-19 on business and employment, it is especially important for employers to understand their obligations to ensure a level playing field,” says Ward.


More information about premiums and other deductions is available on the Employment New Zealand website.