Changes to the Skills Shortage List

Finding suitable employees for any given position can prove a difficult task for many employers. This has seen employers often become reliant on a migrant work force to meet their employment needs.

Skills Shortage List

This difficulty of hiring suitable employees has been recognised by Immigration New Zealand through the skills shortage list, which provides for jobs that are deemed to be particular areas of concern for employers trying to hire. As long as a migrant worker meets the criteria on the shortage list and is eligible to obtain a work visa, there is no obligation on the employer to advertise the job they are hiring for, nor do they have to prove that there are no New Zealanders available for the position.

It came as a disappointing blow to Southland dairy farmers then, when Herd Managers and Assistant Herd Managers were removed from the skills shortage list last year. This decision came after Immigration New Zealand assessed the labour market and believed that there are New Zealanders available with the necessary skills to do the job. Dairy farmers are still able to hire migrant workers, but it has become increasingly hard to do so.

The skills shortage list is updated on a regular basis, with different jobs being removed from or added to the list at any given time. Therefore, the importance of employers regularly checking the list cannot be overstated.

The removal of Herd Managers and Assistant Herd Managers has created uncertainty for farmers who are looking to retain the skills and knowledge of their migrant workers, not to mention the uncertainty it has created for migrant workers and their (and often their family’s) future in New Zealand.

Employer obligations

So, what does this mean? Dairy farmers looking for Herd Managers and Assistant Herd Managers will be required to make genuine attempts to recruit New Zealanders to fill the position before offering employment, or renewing employment offers, to migrant workers and supporting their work visas.

And what is a genuine attempt? Employers will be expected to list their job vacancy at a local and national level. It will also be expected that advertising of the position continues for a reasonable duration, with suggested times being 2-4 weeks minimum. If New Zealanders apply for the job, but the employer still wishes to employ a migrant worker, the employer will be required to justify why the New Zealand candidates were not suitable.

This can be frustrating for employers as each time their migrant worker’s visa is due to expire, this process must be undertaken.

Tips for Employers

Being prepared in these situations is going to be key. Ensure that you know how long your workers’ visas last, and when they should be re-applying, if you wish to have them stay on. Continue to check the skills shortage list to see whether the worker could fall within one of the skills listed. If the job does not fall within the skills shortage list and you must therefore advertise the position, make sure you keep clear records of all advertisements you put out for the position, and how long the advertisements ran. This paperwork will be important to present to Immigration New Zealand to show that genuine attempts have been made to hire New Zealanders. Further, you will need to justify why the New Zealand applicants were unsuitable for the job or unable to be trained.

If you are looking at retaining your migrant workers, or hiring a migrant worker who is currently working elsewhere in New Zealand, make sure that all of the paperwork is up to scratch. Depending on the visa they hold and their situation, they may only be permitted to work at the job and for the employer under which their visa was obtained. This can cause problems with Immigration New Zealand, and it is easier to get it right the first time, rather than try and fix the problem after the fact.

Unfortunately this change in the skills shortage list has added another job to the list for Southland dairy farmers; this required process is time-consuming and adds another stress to farmers already dealing with other challenges on the farm. However, this is the current process that needs to be followed, and it is important that employers understand these changes and the effects that flow from them.