The New Zealand Government has announced sector agreements and some changes to the Working Holiday Scheme to help NZ employers fill skills gaps.
- Sector agreements allow a few exceptions to the median wage requirements when hiring skilled migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)
- NZ employers can continue hiring migrants holding open work visas such as students, working holiday makers, and partners with open work visas.
For New Zealand to become a higher-productivity, higher-wage economy, these sectors must be able to recruit migrant workers below the median wage.
These agreements allow these sectors time to attract & retain domestic workers, put effort into retaining, training & upskilling New Zealanders and invest in technology & new business models.
The new sector agreements will come into effect on 31 October 2022. They include pay rates, timeframes, and roles that have been developed in consultation with the sector representatives and government agencies.
NZ employers must continue using the existing rules to recruit migrant workers until 31 October 2022.
The operational details will be released later.
To view the Sector Agreements Factsheet, please click here
The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) was opened to applicants on 4 July 2022. Most migrants holding the AEWV will be paid the median wage (NZD 76.76 per hour) or more. The new sector settings allow limited exceptions. The job offers must meet the market rate.
- Migrant workers in some roles holding an AEWV must be paid at least NZD 26.16 an hour (Level 3 rate in the Pay Equity Settlement)
- Migrant care workers earning NZD 28.25 per hour (level 4 rate) will be able to apply for the Work to Residence pathway after two years
- Lower wage thresholds are already in place for some care roles and will continue until 31 October 2022
Sector settings will apply from 31 October 2022 until at least October 2024.
2) Construction & Infrastructure
- Migrant workers in some roles holding an AEWV must be paid at least NZD 25 an hour (90% of the median wage)
- The wage threshold will be updated to align with changes in the median wage
- There is no cap on the number of workers that can be hired below the median wage
Sector settings will apply from 31 October 2022 until at least October 2024
3) Tourism & Hospitality
Seasonal Snow & Adventure Tourism
- Migrant workers in some roles holding an AEWV must be paid at least NZD 25 an hour (90% of the median wage). Until the sector agreement ends in 2025, the percentage will keep on increasing gradually.
Sector settings will apply from 31 October 2022 until 2025.
Other Tourism & Hospitality Roles
Many tourism & hospitality workers can already be paid NZD 25 per hour until April 2023.
This is a temporary exception and not a sector agreement. It was because the unusually low number of migrants in New Zealand with open work rights.
- Workers in the specified roles holding an AEWV must be paid at least $24 per hour (86% of the median wage). The wage threshold will be updated to align with the changes in the median wage.
- A cap limit has been set for the visas:
600 for 2022-2023
600 for 2023-2024
- A Pacific Programme will replace the sector agreement from 2024
- Workers holding a Fishing Crew Work Visa must be paid at least the minimum wage plus NZD 4 an hour. The wage threshold will be increased towards the median wage each year.
- Cap limit for visas: 940
5) Meat Processing
- Entry-level meat process workers can be paid NZD $24 an hour (86% of the median wage). The wage threshold will be updated to align with changes in the median wage.
- Cap limit for visas: 320
A Pacific Programme will replace the sector agreement from 2024
- Most migrants holding an AEWV & paid less than the median wage for two years will have to wait for 12 months before reapplying for another AEWV role at that rate.
- However, they can immediately reapply for another AEWV if that role is paid the median wage or more or they can apply for another visa.
- Partners of AEWV holders earning less than the median wage will be able apply for visitor visas for the duration of their partner’s visa.
- Meat process workers and seafood process will not be able to get another AEWV for work paid below the median wage until the following season.
Working Holiday Scheme Visas
Working Holiday Visa holders have open work rights.
The Government will take the following three measures to help sectors that employ migrants holding Working Holiday Visas:
- Working Holiday Visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 (inclusive) for those already in New Zealand will be extended by six months from the date of expiry
- Working holidaymakers outside New Zealand will have more time to enter the country
- Working holiday scheme cap limits will be doubled
More details about changes to the Working Holiday Visa schemes can be found here
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Vandana Rai is a Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser and has built a reputation around her rare set of skills, which could be considered ideal for her legal profession.