An Auckland pharmacy group penalised for underpaying employees by more than $255,000, has highlighted a hole in the auditing processes within the health sector when it comes to safeguarding the labour standards of employees.
Tāmaki Health, formerly known as Nirvana Health Group, was this month ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to pay nearly $92,500 in penalties after failing to keep accurate records and applying blanket wage deductions at seven Auckland pharmacies.
The determination followed a 2017 Labour Inspectorate investigation which found 12 migrant trainee pharmacy technicians, on agreement from the Open Polytechnic to study and work at the pharmacies, received an equivalent hourly rate below the minimum wage.
“This determination found against seven pharmacies, all of which should have had their minimum employment standards firmly in place from the top down. It is disappointing to see pharmacies who are funded through Pharmac, District Health Boards, the Ministry of Health, and ACC failing to meet basic labour rights in such a serious way. This raises questions about the funding, quality management, and risk management systems in the sector,” says Labour Inspectorate National Manager, Stu Lumsden.
“We are calling on all large businesses and organisations to take another look at their quality management and risk management processes to make sure that labour rights considerations are being covered. Minimum employment standards are a legal requirement. Auditing for this compliance is in the best interests of a business’s overall sustainability and everyone involved in it,” Mr Lumsden says.
Employment Services has guidance for both employers and employees on employment rights and obligations. Anyone who has information about minimum standards not being met, are advised to phone 0800 20 90 20, where all concerns will be handled in a safe environment.