Canterbury pub owners fined $30K after workers denied sick, bereavement and holiday leave

Two Canterbury pub owners have been fined $30,000 after treating permanent employees as casuals to avoid providing them with their minimum holiday rights, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said in a statement.

Malcolm and Claire Bennett, who have owned and operated Coalgate Tavern for over 30 years, were penalised for 30 breaches to the Holidays Act after failing to provide three employees with paid sick leave, bereavment leave, or annual and public holiday entitlements, despite being permanent staff, the ERA said.

It comes after an investigation by the Labour Inspectorate into the minimum rights of 17 employees of the pub.

"One employee who had worked for the pair for 10 years was only paid for one sick day throughout the period, she worked whilst unwell having been told by the Bennetts that she wasn’t entitled to paid leave," Inspectorate regional manager Jeanie Borsboom said.

"Another employee did not take any time off work when her mother died because she couldn't afford to take unpaid leave.

"These breaches occurred over a significant period of time, it was only after the investigation began that the Bennetts engaged with a payroll company to help them pay their employees correctly and record holiday entitlements. It is simply not acceptable for employers to fail to meet their employees' basic rights."

The ERA's investigation found that while the Bennetts had "no intention to actively exploit or disadvantage the employees", they had "recklessly shut their eyes to their obligations" under the law.