By Natalie Gardiner, Labour Inspectorate regional manager
Amid a global rise in consumer and government expectations for businesses to have transparency in their supply chains, Australia is looking to follow the lead of the United Kingdom by introducing a Modern Slavery Act. This would compel ‘large’ companies, with total revenue of more than $A50 million to report on their supply chains and actions to combat modern slavery at home and abroad.
For both sides of the Tasman this is a significant development, as not only would this affect companies based in Australia, but the many New Zealand companies which do business with them.
As a result businesses which are unable to demonstrate their compliance with employment, workplace safety, and immigration law may in the future find themselves shut out of the market.
This is part of why it’s been good to see Building Service Contractors (BSC) join a growing number of industry bodies, such as those related to labour hire and horticulture, in helping ensure abuses of these laws are a thing of the past, by introducing forms of auditing.
Not only does this help ensure fair working conditions, but helps manage risk and future proof your business. The Labour Inspectorate is supportive of industry taking these kinds of leadership roles, and will be closely watching these developments, while making sure they are up to scratch.
We will not be the only ones taking an interest either, with consumers increasingly wanting to be assured that when they buy a product or service they are not by proxy endorsing any forms of modern slavery.
This is apparent in the New Zealand National Consumer Survey 2016, conducted by Consumer Protection, which found that knowing whether a business treats its workers fairly regularly affects consumers’ purchasing decisions.
To help consumers and businesses make these kinds of informed choices, the Labour Inspectorate takes a transparent approach to regulation. Through strengthened penalties and additional tools, restricting non-compliant employers’ access to migrant labour, and publically naming those who commit breaches, anti-competitive businesses which fail to pay minimum wage, holiday pay, or provide employment agreements, can face serious damage to their brand.
The question businesses face now in this global movement is which side of history they want to find themselves on, and what actions they will take to ensure they swim, rather than sink, in a rising tide of transparency in labour practices and standards.
Find more information at www.employment.govt.nz or by calling 0800 20 90 20, where any concerns or queries you may have regarding employment can be handled in a safe environment.