Work Visa Changes: What You Need to Know
There are some significant policy changes on the horizon for the New Zealand Work Visa, and we want to make sure you're well-informed.
As a recruitment company specialising in the agriculture industry, we understand the importance of staying ahead of these changes to ensure the ongoing success of your farming operations.
One of the most significant changes that have raised concerns in the agriculture sector is the new minimum wage requirement for entry-level juniors. Starting from February 2024, these newcomers must be paid a minimum of $31.61 per hour. While this aims to ensure fair compensation, it poses challenges, particularly in times of variable farm payouts.
To mitigate the immediate impact of the new wage requirement, we strongly recommend submitting staff visa applications before February 2024. Doing so will allow you to lock in the current minimum wage rate of $29.66 an hour, potentially saving your farm substantial labour costs.
Industry-wide cooperation is key to addressing these changes effectively. Sector agreements, if adopted, could provide a structured approach to wage negotiations and ensure fair wages while taking into account the unique needs of the agriculture sector. Employers, associations, and government entities must collaborate to create a sustainable solution.
As we have done in the past, we plan to lobby the government for more realistic wage adjustments for entry-level positions and explore exemptions based on experience.
For existing employees holding three-year visas, there's good news. By extending these visas before February 2024, they can be upgraded to five-year visas, offering more stability for both employers and employees. This provision can help mitigate concerns about potential stand-down policies for long-term visa holders.
Another important aspect of the changes is the English language proficiency requirement for pathways to residence. Most dairy staff will need to pass English exams (IELTS 6.5 or PTE Academic 58) to be eligible. We are encouraging our candidates to continuously improve their English skills, as this pathway offers long-term stability and a way to secure residence status in New Zealand.
In response to concerns about exploitation in certain industries, the government has removed the 90-day trial period. While this change aims to protect employees, it also means that employers need to be more diligent in their front-end recruitment processes to ensure a good fit.
As we face these changes in New Zealand's work visa policies, it's essential to approach them with a proactive mindset. By understanding the implications and taking pre-emptive measures, employers in the agriculture sector can continue to thrive. We are committed to supporting our clients through these transitions, and together, we can navigate the evolving landscape of New Zealand's immigration and recruitment laws.