Safeguarding the rights of migrant workers has been a top priority for Immigration New Zealand (INZ) since the introduction of Government’s ‘Migrant Work Exploitation Programme’ (see recent article on this issue here). In a pivotal move towards addressing concerns of migrant exploitation, INZ has introduced a significant policy amendment to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). This amendment marks the end of “90 day trial provisions” outlined in section 67A of the Employment Relations Act 2000 for all future AEWV applicants.
As of 29 October 2023, the use of “90 day trial provisions” in new AEWV Job Check applications will be prohibited. This policy alteration is designed to instil greater security and confidence in a migrant worker’s employment arrangement. However, in doing so, INZ has effectively created a ‘two-class’ employment system – where New Zealand employees are ‘less secure’ in their jobs than their migrant counterparts, at least for the initial 90 days of their employment.
This change, while well-meaning, may also inadvertently negatively impact migrant workers by making them less attractive to New Zealand employers. In our experience, migrant workers already find it more challenging to secure work in New Zealand because some employers view the additional ‘red-tape’ that comes with hiring a migrant (such as going through Job Check applications and keeping track of visa expiry dates for example), whether rightly or wrongly, as being too onerous for their business.
That stated, processes can be implemented and employees who are not meeting expectations can still have their employment terminated, if that process and subsequent termination is compliant with New Zealand employment law.
Renewing Employer Accreditation: new assessment criteria
Upon renewing Employer Accreditation, INZ will evaluate whether employers have adhered to various requirements outlined in immigration policy. Notably, offering employment agreements with trial provisions will now be factored into this assessment process.
Early advice encouraged
To ensure compliance and pre-empt potential complications, we strongly advise seeking guidance at an early stage. By adhering to the new policies, employers can navigate the accreditation renewal process with confidence as well as uphold the rights and well-being of their migrant workers, but at the same time also allowing the utilisation of New Zealand employment laws to manage “bad hire” situations.