Apple grower case gets to core of holiday pay issue
20 September 2007
A successful investigation into a Nelson orchardist who failed to pay workers for a public holiday, claiming growing conditions had prevented work, is an important reminder for employers, says the Department of Labour.
The Department’s Nelson Service Manager Annette Baxter says a complaint was received that workers hadn't been paid holiday pay when they were told not to work on Anzac Day after the orchardist claimed the fruit was not ripe.
“We found out that apples had been picked the day before, and the day after Anzac Day,” says Ms Baxter. “This indicates that the claim the fruit was not ripe was most unlikely.”
As a result of the Department of Labour investigation, Nelson orchardist Birdhurst Ltd has agreed to pay their workers the holiday pay they were owed for ANZAC Day.
“The orchardist will also tell their contractors that Anzac Day was an otherwise working day – in other words, if a day would normally be worked, then workers are entitled to be paid,” says Ms Baxter. “This is an important principle, and one we hope all employers will take notice of.
“The employer is to be commended for accepting responsibility for putting the situation right by paying employees the money they are owed.
“In these circumstances the Department of Labour will be taking no further action.
“We hope this outcome will send a positive message to other growers about the need to act responsibly and meeting their obligations around statutory holidays,” says Ms Baxter. “When employers treat their workers well by paying their entitlements, their workforce is likely to be much more productive.”