Coinciding policy changes mid 2021 – Businesses to be cautious!03 February 2021
A lot of businesses are feeling overwhelmed by continuous policy changes and announcements coming through from Immigration New Zealand. Keeping up with these amendments coupled with the stressors of the post Covid19 world has become taxing; but this is not the time to take your foot off the pedal.
While employers are advised to get their ducks in a row for these massive amendments, they must not lose sight of key immigration policy changes scheduled to go live mid 2021. These changes are close to one another and may have a follow on impact.
• Auto Extensions: By now, New Zealand employers would be well aware of the 6-month auto extensions for employer-specific visas which was announced on 21st December 2020. This extension allows for visas restricted to a specific job, employer and location to have their visa expiry dates, occurring between 1st January 2021 to 30th June 2021, extended by 6 months.
• Visa Scheme and Employer Accreditation: In approximately six months, INZ is overhauling its entire temporary work visa scheme – putting the employer at the heart of the visa process (where the applicant currently sits). This means that the visa process will start with the employer as the first step and finish with the applicant. This will be the new mandatory ‘accreditation’ scheme – all employers will need to be accredited if they wish to support a migrant worker for a work visa. This is scheduled for mid-year (exact date of implementation is unknown). What this also means is there is still time to prepare!
• Median wage Increase: The announcement by INZ in December also locked in the median wage at $25.50/hour until July 2021 to give employers some breathing space, certainty and time to plan. The new median wage of $27/hour will now start after July 2021 – possibly coinciding with the new accreditation scheme. After this change is implemented, an application supported for an employee who is paid less than $27/hour will yield only a 6-month visa.
Consequently, if employers want the certainty of a longer term work visa for their employees, they will need to pay at or above the median wage – while also getting their application prepared for accreditation under the new scheme. Businesses could be faced with a scenario where they have to pay their migrant staff a higher remuneration and budget for accreditation fees!
Another major risk we are coming across is that many employees are delaying their visa submissions due to the auto-extensions that INZ has granted. The concern here is that even with $27/hour, should the employer fail to get accredited in time for the new employer accreditation policy implementation – a visa application may not be processed by INZ until the employer is accredited.
While the employer Accreditation scheme has a phased implementation process, businesses run the risk of their employees being lulled into a false sense of security due to the auto extension and walking into the possibility of visa applications not being processed due to the employer accreditation not being granted yet.
It is imperative for businesses who have migrant workers on their payroll to start taking a cautionary and planned approach leading up to the changes – as accreditation will not happen overnight. It is also equally important for employees to engage with their managers to sensibly work through visa support options.
We provide a complimentary session for employers to talk through their accreditation requirements and timelines. If you feel this might be a challenge you business will be facing soon, don’t hesitate to have a chat with us.
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