Businesses and their owners will be significantly penalised for breaching minimum employment standards. That's the message the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is sending out.

A Napier restaurant owner has been ordered to pay $30,000 out of her own pocket after two of her migrant employees worked long hours, seven days a week, with no days off.

The Employment Relations Authority determination comes after an investigation by the Labour Inspectorate found that owner Huichan Xu, a sole trader of Golden Spring Takeaway, breached 10 of its standards.

She failed to retain copies of the individual employment agreements, failed to keep wage and time records, and failed to keep holiday and leave records as required by law.


Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said Xu initially denied that the pair were employed by her and later provided manufactured records developed once the investigation had begun.

"This is a reminder that migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable section of the workforce, as they're less likely to be aware of their rights and entitlements and can be concerned regarding their visa status."

A second determination penalised an Auckland flooring company for a similar amount for breaching all minimum employment standards.

Modern Floor and Wall Ltd and its owner Srinivas Panuganti each received fines for breaches against two employees. Of the $25,000 fine dished out by the ERA, the company was ordered to pay $15,000 and Panuganti to pay $10,000.

Lumsden said the penalties also covered the employees "basically having to pay to have their job" - asked to pay a "premium" to the director to retain their employment.

He said it was good to see the ERA was holding not only companies but directors personally culpable for penalties.

"Businesses should not be making profit at the expense of their employees," Lumsden said.

"Every employer needs to keep wage, time, holiday and leave records to ensure they meet all minimum standards, and where these are not in place the Inspectorate can and will impose fines."

MBIE encouraged anyone who has information about minimum standards not being met to phone the ministry's service centre on 0800 20 90 20.