Fifty-four current and former migrant workers at multiple sushi bars in Whangarei will be paid out over $70,000 of unpaid holiday pay, after the businesses failed to comply with employment laws.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment recovered a total of $71,454 of unpaid public holiday and holiday pay entitlements for 54 current and former employees at eight sushi bars in Whangarei.

A MBIE labour inspectorate, along with Inland Revenue, visited nine sushi bars in the area to check their compliance with employment and tax laws.

Eight businesses were found to be in serious breaches of employment laws including failing to keep time and wage records, provide employment agreements, pay minimum wages, holiday pay or public holiday entitlements.


All of the businesses visited employed migrant workers.

Six businesses were served Improvement Notices, one closed and one has been referred to the Employment Relations Authority for penalties.

Two businesses were required to pay arrears as high as $25,460 and $28,758.

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment labour inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said the exploitation of migrant workers was unacceptable.

"MBIE takes these breaches very seriously and is working proactively to crack down on it through joint compliance operations targeting sectors and at risk workers across New Zealand.

"Failure to produce and maintain accurate records was a major contributor to non-compliance, with a total of 20 breaches identified.

"Without accurate time and wage records, the employer cannot demonstrate they are providing their employees with the correct entitlements," he said.

There were penalties of up to $50,000 for any employer who breached employment law, he said.

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment encouraged anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.