Immigration & Covid19 – But what about the employers?- written by Arunima Dhingra

The migrant community has waited almost 7 weeks (feels much longer!) to hear something from Immigration New Zealand about the most pressing issue facing them – reduction of hours/pay or total loss of job altogether and subsequent impact on their visas.

INZ has officially remained tight-lipped on the issue, until the last day of April, when they released their first comments:

“INZ understands that many migrants may have lost their job or had their hours of work and/or wages reduced as a result of COVID-19 and New Zealand’s Alert level system, which means they are not meeting their visa requirements. INZ will be taking a reasonable approach to individuals in this situation and we will not be focussing our compliance activity on these individuals in the first instance.”

They also go on to state that when accounting for the impacts on an individual’s employment due to the pandemic, a case by case assessment would be made. And for those struggling in New Zealand financially may have to look at making arrangements to return home when they are able.

While a lot of questions still remain unanswered, that announcement is raindrop on parched soil. So, while there is some amnesty for the migrant workers, what happens to their employers? Employers have to meet their own set immigration requirements to support applications, specifically:

-The employment be genuine, ongoing and sustainable (financial sustainability of the employing organisation forms a key criteria)

-Employers must comply with all relevant employment (including occupational safety and health (OSH)) and immigration law in force in New Zealand

So, what does the post Covid19 landscape look like for businesses? How will their sustainability be assessed with a massive financial hit taken by most employers? With more NZ businesses undergoing restructures and redundancies than ever before, will INZ be prompted to check for procedural fairness in these processes? That they have complied with the employment law? Businesses opening at Alert Level 3 introduced new OSH process in order to comply and safely operate. Will this be featured in INZ’s assessment also? How will smaller business without an in-house HR department fare with these? How will this impact the compulsory accreditation which is planned to come into effect next year?

  Many questions. Few answers.

We all know the face of NZ’s labour market is going to completely change which will have a direct impact on “genuine attempts” criteria for an Essential Skills Work Visa application. But these farfetched ideas about sustainability and compliance assessment may be lurking somewhere in the uncertain future and have a more indirect effect on work visas.

It’s something employers should be prepared for as the economic climate in New Zealand hardens and the fog of uncertainty in the immigration space thickens.

“Prepare the umbrella before it rains” – Malay Proverb


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