RSE one of the best in the world

The Orchardist - - Recognised Seasonal Employer - By Anne Hardie

Ten years af­ter the Recog­nised Sea­sonal Em­ployer (RSE) scheme was in­tro­duced to New Zealand, it now has 135 em­ploy­ers signed up and last sea­son they em­ployed 10,437 work­ers.

In the past two years, Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand has ap­proved about a dozen more em­ploy­ers each year and the num­ber of ATRs (agree­ment to re­cruit) has been steadily in­creas­ing, in­clud­ing joint ATRs, which now ac­counts for more than 2,000 work­ers shared be­tween em­ploy­ers.

It’s hailed as one of the best scheme’s of its kind in the world, but like any scheme, there are al­ways re­fine­ments to be made and ar­eas that can be im­proved, es­pe­cially as the num­ber of ATRs in­creases.

Part of that re­fine­ment is Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand’s re­quire­ment for con­tracts for ser­vice now, as op­posed to a let­ter of in­tent. Se­nior im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer Michael Jones says it was of­ten hard to work out who ac­tu­ally had the work when re­ly­ing on let­ters of in­tent, whereas a con­tract for ser­vice from con­trac­tors will pro­vide a clearer pic­ture of the work avail­able.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion and pas­toral care have been re­viewed and clar­i­fied by Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand and Jones says they will be for­warded to RSE em­ploy­ers. He says the ac­com­mo­da­tion has to meet the im­mi­gra­tion in­struc­tions set out by the Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand and to date, the vast ma­jor­ity of ATR ap­pli­ca­tions have suit­able ac­com­mo­da­tion. If ac­com­mo­da­tion is not suit­able, then new ac­com­mo­da­tion will need to be ar­ranged, he says.

When an in­ci­dent arises with a RSE worker, Im­mi­gra­tion NZ wants to know about it em­ploy­ers signed up straight away from the RSE em­ployer and not the me­dia, even if it is a quick email with the ba­sic de­tails that can be fol­lowed up later with more de­tails. Op­er­a­tions man­ager for the Welling­ton area of­fice, James Dal­mar, says an in­ci­dent may in­volve the po­lice, a se­ri­ous health is­sue or sim­i­lar and it is im­por­tant for em­ploy­ers to con­tact their re­la­tion­ship man­ager.

“They re­port the mat­ter to the rel­e­vant of­fi­cials at im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand so there is at least aware­ness of what has oc­curred. And if there is sup­port, as­sis­tance or

ad­vice, that would hap­pen gen­er­ally through the re­la­tion­ship man­ager. A col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach is the best way of deal­ing with in­ci­dences so the em­ployer is work­ing with of­fi­cials and there are no sur­prises.

“In the main it has worked rea­son­ably well, but there are some im­prove­ments that could be use­fully made which is why we’re re­mind­ing RSE em­ploy­ers to act quickly. The ma­jor­ity are do­ing the right thing and let peo­ple know as soon as an in­ci­dence oc­curs. It’s only a mi­nor­ity of cases where ear­lier would have been use­ful.”

He says it is im­por­tant to recog­nise that the re­la­tion­ship man­agers – and there is one in both the North Is­land and South Is­land – have a solely re­la­tion­ship focus. Whereas the de­ci­sion on the re­newal of an em­ployer’s RSE sta­tus or ATR sits with the RSE unit within Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand which is quite separate. The RSE unit pro­cesses RSE sta­tus, re­newal and ATRs in ac­cor­dance with im­mi­gra­tion re­quire­ments and that in­cludes as­pects such as suit­able ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Due to the in­creas­ing num­ber of RSE em­ploy­ers and ATRs, Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand has em­ployed ex­tra staff to help process ATRs and ad­min­is­tra­tion work as­so­ci­ated with the scheme, which will lead to faster pro­cess­ing times for ap­pli­ca­tions.

It has a list of the top five prob­lems with lim­ited visa ap­pli­ca­tions which an RSE em­ployer needs for their em­ploy­ees. Some­times, ap­pli­ca­tions are sim­ply not sub­mit­ted on time as they have to be re­ceived at least five work­ing days be­fore a po­ten­tial em­ployee trav­els to New Zealand. Ap­pli­ca­tions can be in­com­plete and work­ers need to sign and date them. An x-ray cer­tifi­cate needs to be less than three months old and ev­i­dence of an em­ployee’s health in­sur­ance is re­quired with the visa ap­pli­ca­tion. Lastly, the in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ment agree­ment (IEA) has to have any de­duc­tions signed by both the em­ployer and em­ployee.

Prob­lems with visa ap­pli­ca­tions in­evitably lead to de­lays in get­ting em­ploy­ees into the coun­try and ready for work. It be­comes in­creas­ingly im­por­tant if an em­ployer needs to re­place an em­ployee who has to re­turn home. At times, an em­ployee needs to re­turn home for an emer­gency, fam­ily be­reave­ment or sim­i­lar and be­cause lim­ited en­try visas are for sin­gle en­try, they need a new visa to re­turn to New Zealand. If they are not re­turn­ing, Dal­mar says RSE em­ploy­ers can re­quest a re­place­ment worker.

“The first point of call for RSE em­ploy­ers is their re­la­tion­ship man­ager who would di­rect it to the RSE unit which will look at in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances and work with them to ar­range visas and work through re­place­ments if ap­pro­pri­ate. Some­times we don’t re­place them, such as when the job only has a few weeks left.”

When ap­ply­ing for ATRs for the sea­son, em­ploy­ers seek­ing more em­ploy­ees than the pre­vi­ous year need to sub­mit one ATR for the pre­vi­ous year’s num­ber of em­ploy­ees and a new ATR for the in­crease, with ev­i­dence to back up the in­crease. If sub­mit­ting joint ATRs, em­ploy­ers need to en­sure they are sub­mit­ted to­gether to avoid de­lays. Joint ATRs need to fit into both na­tional and regional al­lo­ca­tions as the em­ployee is counted as one in both re­gions they might be work­ing.

“Joint ATRs are good for em­ploy­ers who get to share some of the costs, like half the re­turn air­fares, and they’re good for work­ers be­cause they get longer time in New Zealand to earn more money.”

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