Making migrant labour work for you

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Until recently, for many employers the idea of actively recruiting labour from offshore was both irrelevant and unnecessary to the success of their business. RACHAEL MASON from Lane Neave reports.

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, however, the need for employers to recruit labour from offshore is not only an attractive and viable option, but increasingly, is essential to continued day-to-day operation and financial success.

The combination of economic growth, the Canterbury earthquakes and low unemployment has meant that the pool of skilled and experienced candidates to fill labour gaps nationwide (across all skill levels) is insufficient to meet demand. The result is that many employers have been forced, willingly or otherwise, to consider recruiting offshore.

Common misconceptions

For many employers, the immigration process can appear daunting. As well as situations where an employer has had a negative experience with attempting to hire an employee from offshore, there are a number of common misconceptions about the immigration process which have put employers off pursuing offshore labour.

The key to making the recruitment of offshore labour work for your business is developing a migrant recruitment strategy that supports your business needs. Together with a well thought-out strategy, good planning in advance will help to alleviate the majority of “pains” that the immigration process can entail.

Making use of appropriate visa categories and combinations of categories can make a material difference to the timeframe it can take to secure a visa. One such example is the Employer Accreditation scheme, which enables trusted employers to more easily recruit skilled migrant workers, and has a number of benefits when compared to other temporary immigration routes.

Additionally, ensuring advertising meets the requirements of immigration policy from the outset can often save valuable time if it turns out that a work visa is required. All too often, positions need to be re-advertised to ensure they meet the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) policy for ensuring a genuine attempt to recruit from the resident labour market has been made.

Rachael Mason
Rachael Mason

Recent immigration policy changes – construction sector

Some of these changes are of national significance, while others are specific to the Canterbury region.

  1. Labour Hire Companies Accreditation Scheme

From January 1 2016, it will be compulsory for labour hire companies who wish to utilise migrant workers to supply labour to the Canterbury construction sector to obtain accreditation from INZ. There will also be optional accreditation nationwide for labour hire companies that work outside of the Canterbury region and/or that supply labour to other industry sectors.

For immigration purposes, a “labour hire company” is defined as a company that “employ[s] and outsource[s] workers for short or long term positions to third parties with whom the employer has a contractual relationship to supply labour”.

The accreditation application process involves a rigorous review of a company’s operation and systems, and covers every aspect of the business from the financial position and HR policies and processes right through to the terms and conditions of employment and support offered to offshore workers. A further aspect of the process requires the labour hire company to provide confirmation that the third party where their workers are placed has good workplace practices.

Employers who utilise contract labour (especially those with projects in the Canterbury region) need to be aware of the new accreditation regime as the labour supply company you use may require accreditation in order to continue to supply labour to your business after January 1 2016. Furthermore, as a recipient of contract labour you may also be required to provide evidence of your own good workplace practices in order to support the accreditation application of the labour hire company and be able to continue to receive contract labour.

  1. Increased duration for work visas in Canterbury

Until recently, applicants applying for a work visa in lower skilled roles have only been able to obtain a 12-month visa. This 12-month limit applied to roles classified by the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) framework at skill levels 4 and 5. Examples of these types of roles include: plant operator, general labourer, concreters etc.

Until December 2016, for all roles where the employment is based in the Canterbury region, across all industry sectors, Essential Skills work visas can now be issued for up to a maximum of three years.

  1. Relaxation of visa conditions in Canterbury

Migrant workers who hold Essential Skills work visas are restricted to undertaking employment for the particular employer, role, and location specified on their work visa. In the event that an employee wishes to change employment, a formal Variation of Conditions application must be made to INZ before the employee can start the new employment.

However, as of July this year all Essential Skills work visas for the Canterbury region are issued with only the occupation and region specified as conditions on the visa, meaning employees will be able to change employer freely without the need to apply for a Variation of Conditions.

This exemption will only apply where the employee is moving from one Canterbury-based employer to another Canterbury-based employer and where the job title and all job duties and responsibilities are substantially the same.

Employers need to be aware that this policy change opens up the opportunity for employers to “poach” staff, meaning that good retention strategies will become increasingly important for employers who wish to protect their investment in offshore labour.

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