Posts Tagged ‘employment’

90 day rules and existing workers

September 24, 2014

Interesting story today in The Press:

Christchurch rebuild manager unfairly sacked
A piling manager recruited from England and sacked in his first 90 days has won nearly $40,000 from his Christchurch employer.

Basically the employee started work in January 2014 but didn’t sign his employment contract until February 2014.

Hickey ruled the 90-day clause was invalid because the Employment Contracts Act said such provisions could not be imposed on existing employees. Hall and Smith Crane had not signed the individual employment contract before Hall began his job. By the time he signed the contract, he was an existing employee.

90 day clauses cannot be applied to existing employees – including those who have completed a free trial – and this sets an interesting precedent of what is an ‘existing employee’.

Of course this situation should never have occurred:

  1. It is illegal for an employer to start you in the job without a signed contract.
  2. To get a work visa to work for a specific employer (like an essential skills work visa) the migrant has to prove Immigration New Zealand (INZ) with a signed employment contract, it’s a mandatory requirement and the INZ have to be satisfied that the employer meets all New Zealand employment and immigration laws. .

Mind you, I had a migrant come in to see me the other day for advice who already had a work visa but hadn’t signed his contract yet – the immigration case officer processing his visa application hadn’t noticed. Government plans to automate the granting of work visas soon through online applications, I wonder if that will improve quality control.

There are a couple of things to take out of this article:

  1. The Employment Relations Authority –
    This organisation is there for you (even if you are on a work visa) to protect your employment rights.
  2. Employment law
    Migrants coming in to NZ to work for a specific employer need to understand the employment laws here, for example:
    – the 90-day trial period and what is means;
    – Unpaid trial periods are illegal and risk your visa application;
    – You must have an employment agreement from day one;
    – This must have clauses which protect you (such as holidays);
    – You must have a minimum of 30 paid hours pw guaranteed.

The immigration and employment laws around this area are in place protect you and are there for a reason ;o).

Mike Bell
Migrant advocate | Licensed Immigration Adviser


Brash supports hiring illegal migrants?!

January 21, 2013

This week we saw an bizarre call from Don Brash, a man who has been a “centre-right”‘ politician (leader of New Zealand’s National Party while in opposition, and the ACT party) and also Governor of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank.

According to media reports Mr Brash said

“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,”

Looking at Mr Brash’s comments I am struck by two questions:

  1. What does Mr Brash know of the rebuild from his vantage point 1,000 kilometres away?
  2. What does Mr Brash know about New Zealand’s immigration system and the potential effects of his idea?

The answer to both questions is clearly “not much”.

The rebuild speed

The amount of work to be done in Canterbury and Christchurch is certainly immense. After nearly 1,000 buildings large and small have been demolished there is still quite a way to go. I look out at this every day as Christchurch is my home and I work in the CBD, but what I see are people working incredible hours – New Zealanders and people coming from around the world to do amazing things.

Hiring illegal immigrants is hardly likely to speed up Gerry Brownlee or improve anything at all.

Yes it would be nice if it could all be finished tomorrow, but those of us who live on planet earth know we are here for the long-haul. Personally I prefer quality work which will last (and perhaps one or two buildings which aren’t tilt-slab construction) over ‘get it over quickly’.

New Zealand’s immigration system

New Zealand has a highly robust immigration system which has served this country well, ensuring that migrants coming to New Zealand add more to this country than they take from it. The last census for example in 2006 confirmed that migrants added $3.3 billion profit to the New Zealand economy after all costs.

Our immigration system ensures people coming to work here are healthy, can speak English, are of good character and have skills New Zealand really needs.

What does this say about illegal immigrants?

Some skilled migrants can unexpectedly and unfortunately become unlawful in New Zealand (and a good part of my work is in restoring skilled workers to lawful status) but in my experience these migrants play by the rules. If they can provide a good reason why they should be allowed to stay they are allowed to regain legal status by trained immigration officials who weigh all aspects of the case before making a decision.

Mr Brash’s idea would remove this protection for New Zealand, hamstringing officials and forcing them to turn a blind eye to people likely to cause loss.

Pros and Cons

I guess in fairness we should weigh the pros and cons of Mr Brash’s “idea”:

Cons – this would

  • completely undermine New Zealand’s immigration system, put in place to protect this nation;
  • encourage many more people to come to New Zealand illegally;
  • discourage highly skilled migrants from coming here to help with the rebuild;
  • reduce the number of jobs available to New Zealanders;
  • reduce training options for New Zealand workers;
  • reduce the quality of work being carried out;
  • increase health and safety risks as well as ACC costs to the New Zealand taxpayer;
  • undermine employment laws and protection for employees;
  • reduce the amount of tax being paid to the New Zealand government;
  • reduce wages in the region for semi and skilled workers;
  • increase the cost to the New Zealand taxpayer who would pick up the tab for health, police and other costs;
  • create breeding grounds for the exploitation of foreign workers;
  • welcome an underclass of people into Christchurch who put nothing into the system but take from it.

Pros – this would

  • increase profits for a small number of companies, CEOs and shareholders.


Christchurch needs highly skilled and experienced workers to train locals and work in jobs there are no locals available to fill. The rebuild is going well and things are coming together. Yes we could do with better planning and drive at the top, but hiring illegal migrants is hardly like to affect this.

Our current immigration system is providing a huge economic boost to not only the rebuild but the country as a whole and will continue to do so if left alone.

There may have been whispers of illegal workers in Christchurch, but as a licensed immigration adviser based right in the heart of the Garden City I have seen no sign of this.

What I have seen is a majority of employers doing a great job shadowed by a tiny minority of employers trying to manipulate the system to increase profits.

Taking this into consideration I believe the only way to read Brash’s call is that either he is a fool with no idea of what he is saying, or this is a ‘dog-whistle’ for his private agenda, raising fears about immigration. As Mr Brash has shown in the past that ‘dog-whistle’ politics is a specialty I question the motives behind this call which clearly are not in New Zealand’s best interests.

Canterbury Skills Shortage List

January 12, 2013

This article from move2nz is a little out of date now, relating to a November 2012 change, but is worth adding here as it affects a large number of people I see every day in Christchurch.

The idea of the Canterbury Skills Shortage List (CSSL) is to highlight occupations in which Canterbury employers are struggling to find skilled and experienced staff.

It is one of three Essential Skills In Demand lists, the others of which are the Immediate Skill Shortage List and the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

As the Canterbury rebuild progresses the kind of skills needed will change and the list is reviewed and updated every three months to keep up with this. Initially skills most in demand were in engineering, surveying and planning, but following the November update there is clearly an increasing need for trades staff with the following additions:

  • Solid Plasterer (333212)
  • Painting Trades Worker (332211)
  • Wall and Floor Tiler (333411)
  • Fibrous Plasterer (333211)
  • Brick layer (333111)
  • Carpenter (331212)
  • Roof Tiler (333311)
  • Joiner (331213)
  • Glazier (333111)
  • Floor Finisher (332111)
  • Stonemason (331112)
  • Drainlayer (334113)
  • Carpenter and Joiner (331211)

I have certainly seen a lot more trades workers coming through and have been busy all month advising people about requirements, helping them get all of the paperwork they need and putting together their Work Visa applications.

How does this affect me?

There is a ‘New Zealanders first’ process in New Zealand meaning that foreign workers can only be considered for jobs if there are no NZ citizens and residents available. Getting good information on your employability before getting on a plane is very important – imagine arriving only to find that there are dozens of unemployed people in your field meaning your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

The CSSL helps to create some certainty as it flags occupations where there is a real shortage of local workers. Not only does it mean that if your occupation is on the list and you meet the requirements (see below) you are very likely to find work, it also means you should not face the usual barriers in getting a Work Visa.

The main barrier in getting a Work Visa is the Labour Market Test – basically any employer wanting to hire you has to prove they have made a genuine effort to check for New Zealanders before offering you the job – for example by advertising the role, checking with the unemployment office (Work and Income) and providing evidence any kiwis who applied were unsuitable. This can add a lot of paperwork to your Work Visa application, delays for you as an applicant, and increases costs for the employer.

The good news is that if your occupation is on the CSSL and you are suitably qualified (see below) the employer should not need to check for New Zealanders first before offering you a job – making the whole process more transparent, predictable and safer.

Qualified and experienced

Before assuming you can use the CSSL to get work in Canterbury it is vital to check that Immigration New Zealand consider you to be ‘skilled’. This is a specific definition which relates to your occupation and also your ability to work in that occupation.

The information you need is held in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO. This defines:

  1. The skill rating of each occupation – between 5(low) and 1 (high); and
  2. How experienced you need to be to do the job competently.

The example I always use is brain surgery: yes it’s a skilled job, but they won’t let me do it without the right qualification. Luckily for most occupations a number of years experience can be substituted for formal qualifications.

For example for ‘Joiner’ the requirement in New Zealand is:

  • NZ Register Level 4 qualification (for example a trade apprenticeship); or
  • At least three years of relevant experience.

It is important to confirm at this stage that the second point refers to relevant work experience you can prove as you will need to include that proof with your application.

All of the requirements for the CSSL are shown in a downloadable PDF you can find hereand may need to be looked up on the ANZSCO website. Just type the reference code (for example 331213 for ‘Joiner’) in the search box and click on the resulting link. You’ll see the ANZSCO requirement under “Indicative Skill Level”.

Watch for additional requirements
It is important to note that some of the occupations listed on the CSSL have additional requirements above those listed in ANZSCO.

For example Glazier (333111) starts with the ANZSCO requirement (which is the same as for joiner) but then adds:

… AND evidence that the work will be done under the supervision of an appropriately Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) who is licensed to supervise relevant Restricted Building Work (RBW) OR that the duties of the Glazier will not include RBW.

Knowing what these requirements are in advance is important so that you won’t be caught out and declined a visa application.

Work Visas

You have probably noted that I have been talking about the CSSL in respect of Work Visas rather than residency. That’s because the CSSL only helps with applications for temporary Work Visas. It doesn’t give you any additional benefit for residency beyond helping you get a skilled job in New Zealand.

Once you have a Work Visa you may well be able to apply for residency if that’s what you want to do, but be aware the requirements are more strict and you will need ongoing employment, not just a short term contract.

I hope this information is useful and will help many people assess their eligibility before looking for work in New Zealand.

Mike Bell

– site architect,
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services

This article was posted in the December 2012 newsletter and is reproduced here by permission.

A third of New Zealand migrants on benefits?

March 7, 2012

Yesterday Nathan Guy, New Zealand’s new Minister for Immigration, stated in an interview with TV One’s breakfast show that a third of migrants in New Zealand are claiming a benefit.

I just don’t know where to start with this one. I had been hoping to stay on a positive footing with this new Minister…

Actually I can’t imagine (beyond outright racism) what an Immigration Minister could have done to cause more damage to his portfolio.

It lookslike Mr. Guy has single-handedly:

  • undermined the entire immigration department (which delivers a multi-billion dollar profit to NZ every year); and
  • tried his hardest to scare off as many globally mobile skilled workers as possible.

What makes this statement incredible is that:

  1. The majority (85%) of migrants arriving in NZ each year aren’t eligible to claim any kind of benefit as they are on temporary visas: temporary workers, students etc.
  2. Of the other migrants – the ones who would gain residency:
    • 60% are not eligible to claim for benefits for the first two years (skilled/business stream);
    • 31% are family sponsored meaning that if they claim benefits during the first five years of being in NZ the money is reclaimed from their sponsor

That leaves just 1% of migrants coming into the country (9% of residents) who can claim benefits during the first two years of being in New Zealand.

It should be mentioned that this group enter New Zealand through the humanitarian stream, many as refugees which effectively form New Zealand’s international good work.

Migrants generally cannot get in to New Zealand without a job offer and because of this rates of migrant employment are very high.

Benefit to New Zealand
The immigration department applies a strict set of rules against each application which are aimed at encouraging gain for New Zealand while protecting this country from loss.

For this system to work is must provide a greater benefit to New Zealand than it costs. The latest government research provided in its International Migration Outlook for 2009/10 confirmed that for 2005/06 (the last time gain was fully calculated by government) immigration delivered $8.1 billion into the New Zealand economy that year.

The report confirms that while the New Zealand population of 3.1 million people had contributed $2.83 billion to the economy that year the migrant population of 927,000 (i.e. all of the migrants including new and those who had been here for many years) had contributed a much greater $3.28 billion.

This clearly confirms that the immigration system, which has not significantly changed since 2006, is working extremely well in providing New Zealand with people who continue throughout their lives to contribute to the economy rather than a mass who claim benefits and drain the system.

I have written to the Immigration Minister to ask about these statements and will update once I hear back.


NZ Recruitment: beware the dark side

December 21, 2011

Migrants are often viewed by disreputable companies as easy money and traditionally less ethical recruitment businesses have targeted skilled workers on the basis that they are often poorly informed, cashed up and (best of all) in another country thousands of miles away making it hard for them to come and complain.

New Zealand Immigration policy has made the job offer such a core requirement for the majority of applicants that many people are caught in a catch-22 situation where they need to interview in New Zealand to get a job, but can’t fully commit to their move without a solid job offer.

As a result many people are desperate and willing to pay large sums of money for the promise of employment.

Unfortunately like most promises of this kind you rarely get what you pay for. Rather than the job offer you are much more likely to end up in the same position without a big chunk of cash as many of these businesses will keep taking more and more money until you give up.

Finding work in New Zealand
It’s never been that easy to get a job in New Zealand and almost impossible for most people unless they are willing to come here and meet potential employers.

The recruitment industry is fairly large and links jobseekers and employers together. While most companies just link people together (and take a large payment from the employer for doing so) there are some consultants who perform important services around vetting and psychometric testing for specific roles and of course some actively head-hunt top staff.

What links these businesses together is that they are generally reputable and the employer almost always pays for the new applicant not the jobseeker. Charging the jobseeker is very unusual in New Zealand (and generally a bad sign), charging the employer and the jobseeker (‘double dipping’) is a really bad sign.

The dark side
Before the recession hit New Zealand there were more and more companies targeting vulnerable and desperate migrants promising they could find them a job without the need to come to New Zealand.

Move2nz came across one such company – NewjobZ – in 2005 soon after launching and quickly realised they were hiding their fees, slipping nasty surprises into the small-print and not providing services for the majority of their paying customers. Those paying clients they did work with were generally just passed to other recruitment companies who worked normally, could be found for free in the yellow pages, and properly charged the employer when landing a job offer.

Luckily complaints to the Commerce Commission closed this bunch down long ago.

Times have been hard for many recruitment businesses since the recession hit at the start of 2009 and almost all recruitment companies moved completely away from working with speculative migrants – those without a visa allowing them to start work – as employers (and immigration) wouldn’t accept them.

Things are starting to pick up again however with a 10 percent increase in jobs being advertised of the past year and the looming rebuild in Christchurch which is expected to require 8,000+ migrant workers to help out.

Paying for a job

Today I am here to tell you to beware – the first sharks are back in the water.

The first sign I received was an email from a move2nzer – an IT professional from India – who had been working with a reputable licensed adviser. The adviser referred him to a recruitment business who charged a ‘job search fee’ of NZ$1,350 to look for a job.

Interestingly not only did the immigration professional know about this fee, they actually sent out the first invoice. Of course once the fee was paid the recruiter stopped answering emails – it appears it was just a scam.

Thousands of miles away from New Zealand the migrant is stuck. They could complain to the Commerce Commission but are unlikely to see their money ever again and are no closer to getting a job offer.

As the adviser was involved you might think the migrant could complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority about this, but actually the IAA and Tribunal only cover immigration advice and (unike the law commission who watch lawyers) are not interested if a licensed adviser is found to be less than professional when operating any other service.

Sign #2
The second sign was spotting advertising from a very sharp website aimed at the UK market that was so close in operation to the old NewjobZ I had to check who was running it to make sure it wasn’t the same crowd. Here’s how it works:

  1. You upload your CV onto their database of ‘thousands’ for free;
  2. If you get a job offer and accept it there is an admin fee of $1,295;
  3. The employer also pays a fee if you are placed.

Some might think that’s good – a job offer even though the recruiter is ‘double dipping’ from the jobseeker and employer. But the devil is in the detail. If the employer doesn’t want to pay (and they say “many” employers do not) then you do. In this circumstance:

“…you agree to also pay us a Successful Placement Fee of between 2 and 4 weeks of your expected gross annual remuneration, dependent on circumstance. Fees must be paid within 7 days of receipt of our invoice”

So you end up with a very vague additional bill of between probably $2,000 and $7,500 due within 7 days of starting work – i.e. before you start earning in New Zealand – and have no real ability to check that the employer actually refused to pay.

I should also point out that because of the 90-day ‘fire at will’ policy introduced in New Zealand back in 2009 you can be fired at any point in the first 90 days of employment (whether you have agreed to this in a contract or not) without reason. Previous examples have shown that if this happens you will very probably still have to pay the fee charged by the recruitment business. Money gone, no job.

But wait, there’s more.

With a little digging we also spotted that one of the directors of this company is the founder of one of the largest immigration businesses around.

Reading the small print it turns out that when you upload your free CV you are actually signing up and agreeing that if you get a job offer you will use the immigration services of this immigration business!. That means another bill of several thousand dollars you didn’t know about.

Buyer beware!

In my experience no matter what promises are made and no matter how much you have paid eventually almost all migrants will need to attend interviews in New Zealand to stand a chance of finding work – employers will quite naturally want to meet you before taking a risk on offering you work.

Paying for a job or jobsearch might sound like a good idea but very rarely works out. You are much more likely to end up:

  • in the same position you were (but with a lot less money);
  • paying exorbitant hidden fees;
  • passed on to another business that you could have found yourself for free; or
  • being tied in to a contract with all sorts of extra costs and requirements.

My advice as always is to contact employers direct – preferably by phone – unless you actually have to go through a recruitment company (for example when applying for jobs in local government). No one else can really tell you how employable you are and no one else is likely to offer you a job.

See move2nz’s employment page and articles for details and think before you part with your money.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2012.

Mike Bell
Site architect –

This article and many others can be found on – helping migrants become Kiwis since 2005.