The Labour Inspectorate has found that the members of the Gloriavale Christian community on the South Island's West Coast cannot currently be considered employees under New Zealand legislation.
It means that the Inspectorate has no jurisdiction and "will not undertake further investigation or enforcement action at this point", according to a statement released today.
The Inspectorate conducted an inquiry into the employment status of people living and working at Gloriavale in 2017 after concerns raised by Charities Services, and again in 2020, after allegations of long working hours were made by two community members.
The results of both inquiries showed that no employment relationships existed within Gloriavale as defined by New Zealand employment law and that the matter therefore falls outside of the Inspectorate's jurisdiction.
National manager Labour Inspectorate Stu Lumsden said employment law defines an employee as a person who has agreed to do any work for some form of payment or reward under a contract of service.
"The evidence we evaluated showed that people who have lived or are living at Gloriavale gave service to the community without the expectations of being paid as individuals," Lumsden said.
Between September 2020 and February this year, the Inspectorate interviewed 39 current and 13 former members of the Gloriavale community, reviewed a range of documents provided by the community and individual members, and sought advice from Crown Law in relation to the employment status of the residents.
Based on this information, the Inspectorate says it became clear that:
- The documents signed by Gloriavale members suggest that it was not the intention of the parties to enter into an employment relationship.
- The intention of the parties is to create a sharing community with religious beliefs as the focal point, and that work is a means of providing for the whole community, rather than for individual gain.
- All Gloriavale members typically receive the same benefits that come with living in the community regardless of their role.
- No individuals enrich themselves by taking profits earned by Gloriavale.
- There is no evidence that community members currently come under duress to sign the documents that define their relationship with Gloriavale.
- There is good evidence that reasonable steps have been taken in the circumstances to support well-informed decision-making, including independent legal advice.
- The way the community operates in practice is consistent with the structures and philosophy set out in the relevant legal documents.
- Members express an understanding of how the community operates.
"We understand there may be concern about whether individuals were able to make fully informed decisions while residing at Gloriavale, but this is not something the Labour Inspectorate can address within the scope of employment law," Lumsden said.
"While we cannot take any further action at this point, the Labour Inspectorate will continue to monitor the situation at Gloriavale, and will take note of any new complaints or information."
Anyone concerned about their employment situation is advised to contact where concerns will be handled in a safe environment.