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Underpaid Sikh employee in New Zealand wins back wage arrears, holiday pay

Auckland, Dec 5, 2023- A Sikh cafe manager has won more than NZ$8,000 after an employment relations body in New Zealand ruled that her former employer did not pay her according to the correct hourly rate.

Bhupinder Kaur worked at the Village Green Cafe in Havelock North for two-and-a-half years without taking any annual leave as the place didn’t have enough staff to cover her absence, stuff.co.nz reported.

Kaur approached the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) after her company’s sole director Joga Singh Chamber refused to engage with her over her unpaid wages.

On closer scrutiny of her payslips after leaving the job, Kaur found that wasn’t paid her full entitlement of annual holiday pay, and the holiday pay she did receive wasn’t paid at the correct hourly rate.

In addition, the company didn’t pay her at the correct hourly rate on multiple occasions throughout her employment.

In a recent decision, ERA calculated the amount of annual leave pay owed to Kaur based on her average weekly wage of NZ$862.02 (gross), as NZ$8,919.28.

From that ERA deducted NZ$3,323.24 that the company paid her in her final payslip for annual leave, and arrived at a figure of NZ$5,596.04.

ERA member Natasha Szeto said the company’s failure to keep wage and time records and failure to keep minimum holiday and leave records was a breach of the Employment Relations Act, the Wages Protection Act and the Holidays Act.

Szeto said this breach was aggravated by the fact that the company appeared to have been intentionally paying Kaur at the incorrect rate.

The ERA ordered the firm to pay Kaur holiday pay of NZ$5,596.04, wage arrears of NZ$840.41, and interest on those amounts of NZ$361.37.

For breaching the Acts, ERA asked the company to pay NZ$4,000, half of which was to be paid to Kaur.

While granting Kaur’s application, it gave Kaur leave to pursue the debts from Chamber personally, rather than his business. (Agency)

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