The owner of the Alpine Motor Inn & Cafe in Springs Junction failed to pay a worker for three months. Photo: Facebook.

Cafe fails to pay worker for three months

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A Springs Junction motor inn and café has been ordered to pay $19,296 in penalties and arrears for failing to pay a migrant worker minimum wage or holiday pay.

The employee started working and living on site at the Alpine Motor Inn & Café limited on November 17, 2014 and did not receive their first pay of $1289.39 until 1 March 2015.

By the time the employee resigned on March 22, 2015 they had only been paid a total of $2541.03, with the 552 hours they had worked in the first three months going unrecognised by their employer.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Alpine Motor Inn & Café limited to pay the employee $6836.02 in minimum wage and holiday pay arrears, as well as a $5000 penalty for taking advantage of a vulnerable migrant worker.

An additional $7500 in penalties was also imposed on the business for their failure to maintain records, or pay minimum wage.

While director Jerry Hohneck argued that the worker was a volunteer and not an employee during the three month period, the ERA says the evidence provided did not stack up.

The ERA said differing accounts provided by Mr Hohneck for why the employee was not entitled to be paid for their work suggested that he knew his actions were in breach of the Minimum Wage Act.

“This kind of deliberate failure to pay an employee wages for work carried out is exploitation, and this is very serious,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager David Milne.

“Anyone employed in New Zealand must be paid at least the minimum wage for their work – there is no excuse for failing to do so.”

David says that while workers coming from overseas are less likely to be aware of their rights, attempts to avoid paying minimum employment entitlements will not be tolerated

“It’s unfair to employees and it disadvantages businesses which do comply with all their employment obligations.”