Compulsory Employer Accreditation Coming Your Way

The Government has recently consulted on key proposals which will significantly impact New Zealand businesses who employ or might employ migrant workers, as well as on migrant workers.

The Government intends to scrap the following six temporary work visa categories and replace them with a new framework:

  • Essential Skills including the Essential Skills in Demand Lists
  • Work to Residence – Long term Skill Shortage List occupation
  • Approval-in-Principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer)
  • Silver Fern (Practical Experience)
  • Silver Fern (Job Search)

The new framework would require employers to hold ‘Employer Accreditation’ status with Immigration New Zealand before a visa could be approved for a migrant worker. This requirement is likely to include employers with existing employees on a work visa that require a visa extension.

This means that employers would need to follow a process of submitting an application to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) with a range of prescribed supporting evidence about their business and paying an applicable fee. Currently, the INZ fee for an initial Employer Accreditation application is $2,130.

From the documents released for consultation and information provided during community information sessions conducted by The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (‘MBIE’), the message is clear – the government is very much set on introducing compulsory employer accreditation, what is open to negotiation are the mechanics of the accreditation process.

Impact on your business

The Government has indicated that in preparation for the move to the new framework, in August 2019, they would implement changes to:

  • the remuneration threshold for the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa, increasing it from $55,000 per annum (or $26.50 per hour) based on a 40 hour working week to $78,000 per annum (or $37.50 per hour) based on a 40 hour working week. The Government has indicated that migrant workers who are already on the pathway to residence under the current Talent (Accredited Employers) visa policy would not be affected by this change and will still be able to qualify for residence if they meet the requirements of their existing visas.
  • the highly-paid threshold for Essential Skills Work Visa Category by increasing the hourly rate from $37.50 to $50.00, for employment with non-accredited employers, but dropping the labour market test requirement; and
  • the arrangements impacting mid-skilled workers under the Essential Skills Work Visa Category, whereby the remuneration threshold for mid-skilled workers will increase from $21.25 per hour to $25.00 per hour (bringing it in line with the Skilled Migrant Category remuneration threshold for ANZSCO levels 1-3 occupations). With the result that those migrant workers who hold Essential Skills Work Visas but are paid less than $25.00 per hour being re-classified as lower-skilled at their next visa application.

    The Government has indicated that this change is likely to have an impact on almost 10,000 migrant workers who are currently mid-skilled visa holders earning less than $25.00 per hour.

    The Government has also stated that the occupations most impacted by this change would be construction trade workers, food trades workers, hospitality and retail managers and automotive engineers

To be clear, however, at this time these changes have only been flagged by MBIE. They are not set in stone. The Minister of Immigration will announce final immigration policy changes in June 2019.

The Government has further indicated that between April and June 2020 they will introduce the new framework with compulsory employer accreditation.

It would be prudent for New Zealand businesses, who already employ migrant workers or intend to in the near future, to plan for this major change, review their processes and practices to ensure that they would be able to meet Immigration New Zealand’s requirements for accreditation.

In fact it would be prudent for all New Zealand businesses to make themselves ‘accreditation’ ready given they may need to employ migrants in the future even if that need is not there now. All New Zealand businesses should carefully consider whether they:

  • meet all immigration and employment law standards
  • have the requisite workplace policies and processes in place
  • understand the consequences of being placed on the MBIE’s stand down list
  • want to offer a pathway to residence for prospective migrant workers.

How Pitt & Moore Lawyers can assist

We are experts in this field and can review your workforce composition, policies and processes as part of our business health check audit. We can explain to you how the new framework may impact your business.

We can also provide support with designing, implementing and monitoring your systems and processes to ensure compliance with your obligations as employers.

Likewise, we can assist with the preparation of applications for Employer Accreditation.

Don’t leave Employer Accreditation to the last minute

If in the next few months you are intending to employ more migrant workers, we recommend that you consider applying for Employer Accreditation ahead of time, particularly if you want to offer a pathway to residence to your migrant workers.

Once the compulsory employer accreditation comes into effect there are likely to be processing waiting periods which could have a detrimental impact on your business.

Talk to us

Contact Mike McMellon today to get advice on the best way forward for your business.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

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