Otago Daily Times

Flexiwage scheme to be expanded


WELLINGTON: The Government has announced an expansion to the Flexiwage scheme, and applicatio­ns will be accepted from next week.

The changes increase the average amount a business can access to hire a worker, and scale up the number of outofwork New Zealanders the scheme will reach.

Firms can now receive an average of $7500 per employee, depending on individual circumstan­ces.

The Government said the changes would support up to 40,000 more New Zealanders into work.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said last year the scheme was a priority to roll out by Christmas.

‘‘Flexiwage is an important plank of our economic recovery plan,’’ Ms Ardern said in a statement.

‘‘The expansion of it is expected to help thousands more New Zealanders into employment.’’

The announceme­nt includes a ringfenced $30 million selfemploy­ment component, and covers increased support through training and mentoring for those out of work wishing to start their own business.

The Ministry of Social Developmen­t (MSD) will begin taking applicatio­ns for the expanded programme on Monday.

Through the existing scheme, 40,167 Flexiwage subsidies were approved between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2020.

Flexiwage is also available to help with training or inwork support that a person may need to do that job, as long as the job continues after the scheme has finished.

‘‘The Flexiwage expansion gives employers confidence to take on and train people, knowing the person will be supported until they’re equipped and ready to meet the requiremen­ts of the job,’’ Minister for Social Developmen­t and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

Eligibilit­y has been widened from helping job seekers on a benefit and at risk of longterm unemployme­nt to include job seekers disadvanta­ged in the labour market who may not necessaril­y be receiving a benefit.

There will also now be set rates, which the government says is to to provide certainty to businesses looking for staff.

The length of time the Flexiwage can be paid depends on how much support a person needs to get the necessary skills and training.

Flexiwage may be paid for 24 weeks at $276 per week, totalling $6624 (GST inclusive), or 36 weeks at $276 per week, totalling $9936 (GST inclusive). Both these rates are $240 per week before GST. There is also a discretion­ary rate depending on the amount of support a person with complex needs will need to get a job and stay employed.

Overall, the average payment is estimated to be $7500 across 40,000 placements, which is higher than the previous average.

The selfemploy­ment payments would be $600 a week over 28 weeks, totalling $16,800, prorated for those pursuing selfemploy­ment parttime.

There would be increased funding support through a Business, Training and Advice Grant of up to $5000.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the scheme expansion would boost business confidence.

‘‘Flexiwage will incentivis­e businesses to take on new workers and is targeted at Kiwis struggling to reenter the workforce, including those who lost their jobs due to Covid. This should keep unemployme­nt numbers low and the economy ticking over.’’

Mr Hope said the $30 million ringfenced to help people start their own business was ‘‘a constructi­ve way to encourage new startups and innovation’’. — RNZ

❛ Flexiwage is an important plank of our economic recovery plan

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

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