The Orchardist

RSE one of the best in the world

- 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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