Roles Exempt from Paying the Median Wage
A key component of the Accredited Employer work visa scheme is the requirement to pay staff the median wage. At $29.66 per hour based on at least a 30-hour week, this is a significant cost and an ongoing recruitment deterrent for many employers struggling with staff resourcing.
From our recent experience, it has come to light that many employers are not aware that there are roles in several sectors that are currently exempt from paying the median wage. Roles in the care workforce, such as aged or disabled carers, residential care assistants and nursing support workers, amongst others can be paid $26.16 per hour to qualify for this work visa.
Some roles in the construction sector and in the seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors will qualify with a pay rate of $26.69. Meat processing workers can be paid $25.51, and many tourism sector workers (waiters, kitchenhands for example) can be paid $28.18. Similarly, bus drivers can be paid $28.00 per hour to be granted a visa under this scheme.
It is important to understand that there are various other roles which qualify for the median wage exemption, however, these exemptions can carry some fishhooks such as shorter visa lengths, maximum continuous stay in NZ conditions and impact on support partners, etc. A comprehensive list of these roles can be found on the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website.
Processing Timeframes Are Increasing
At inception, a major attraction for the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme was the transparent and reasonably quick processing timeframes for all 3 stages of the process. This meant that employer accreditation could be completed in 10 working days, job checks in 10-15 working days and visa applications in 10-20 working days. With the recent increases in exploitation cases across New Zealand, more care is now being taken by INZ to ensure job offers are legitimate and information provided is credible. This means that processing timeframes have increased to over 3 months in some cases.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that applications are submitted ‘decision ready’ with all T’s crossed and I’s dotted. This means understanding and supplying all relevant information at the outside so INZ’s don’t have to chase you for missing details during the process. In the worst case scenario, applications can be declined if relevant information is not provided and while INZ is obligated to give an onshore applicant some notice of prejudicial information, they are under no obligation to do this for offshore candidates and can make a decision based on what they have been supplied.
Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Act 2023
This Act came into effect on 6 January 2024 bringing in various changes to the Employment Relations Act, the Immigration Act and the Companies Act.
Some of the key changes of relevance to immigration include:
Timely Provision of Employment Documentation: Employers are required to provide employment-related documentation promptly, within 10 working days of a request by an immigration officer. This provision aims to ensure transparency and accountability in the employment process, facilitating smoother compliance with immigration laws and facilitating investigations.
Introduction of Immigration Infringement Offences, namely:
Allowing unauthorized individuals to work within the employer's service.
Employing individuals in violation of their visa conditions.
Failing to comply with requests to supply documents within the stipulated time-frame.
These offences are designed to strengthen enforcement measures and deter unlawful practices in the employment of migrants.
Public Disclosure of Offending Employers: Under the Act, MBIE can also publish the names of employers found in breach of the Immigration Act. This provision aims to enhance transparency and accountability within the business community, serving as a deterrent against exploitation and non-compliance.