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The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme enables businesses in certain industries to recruit overseas workers for seasonal work. Industries that use this scheme are mainly horticulture and viticulture when there are not enough New Zealand workers within these industries. Your business may need more workers ahead of time for a period of high demand or worker shortages, such as peak seasons for fruit picking or fishing. In this case, becoming a Recognised Seasonal Employer can ensure you can meet your workforce needs. This article will set out:

  • the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme; 
  • what businesses are eligible for the scheme; 
  • what information you need to apply; and 
  • some context for how the scheme works in practice.

Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme

Since April 2007, the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme allows certain employers to employ foreign citizens to come to New Zealand for a limited period to meet short-term or seasonal demand. The policy aims to allow horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work. This is particularly helpful when there are not enough New Zealand workers. Workers who come to New Zealand to work for a Recognised Seasonal Employer get a special visa. This visa allows them to live and work in New Zealand for up to seven months a year. 

The horticulture and viticulture industry is typically reliant on overseas workers through busy periods. This is mainly due to significant seasonal fluctuations and that New Zealand workers are hard to find for specific roles. When the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme originally came into effect, a cap of 5,000 workers were allowed through the scheme per year. The scheme is very popular, and the cap continues to rise. In 2020 and 2021, the cap is 14,400. 

Additionally, the Scheme is only applicable to select countries, all in the Pacific. Unless a business can show they have pre-established relationships with workers from other countries, they can only recruit workers through the scheme from the following eligible countries:

  • Fiji;
  • Kiribati;
  • Nauru;
  • Papua New Guinea;
  • Samoa;
  • Solomon Islands;
  • Tonga;
  • Tuvalu; and
  • Vanuatu.

What Businesses Are Eligible to Become Recognised Seasonal Employers?

Not all businesses are eligible to join the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme. You must apply through New Zealand Immigration if you would like to join. Likewise, you can discuss with Immigration whether your business will satisfy the requirements. 

In your application to New Zealand Immigration, you must prove that your business has tried to recruit New Zealand workers and that you were not able to fill all of your anticipated workforce vacancies. You will also need to provide the following information:

  • context around the region where there is a shortage of seasonal labour;
  • the number of workers needed;
  • the available positions and tasks to be performed over that seasonal period; and
  • when and for how long each position is available.

How Does the Scheme Work in Practice?

Note that although seasonal employment is temporary by definition, seasonal workers are entitled to the same minimum rights as permanent employees. You must pay seasonal employers at least the minimum adult working wage and give employers the legally mandated amount of rest breaks.

Workers will generally stay to fill the seasonal vacancy and then leave New Zealand. Through the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, workers can stay in New Zealand for up to seven months during any 11-month period. The only exceptions to this restriction are workers from Tuvalu and Kiribati, who can stay for nine months. This is because of the distance between those countries and New Zealand, with consequences for travel costs.

Key Takeaways

The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme allows certain employers to employ citizens from Pacific nations to come to New Zealand for a limited period to meet short-term or seasonal demand. Most Recognised Seasonal Employers are in the horticulture and viticulture industries. However, not all businesses will qualify for the scheme. Eligible businesses must show that they tried and failed to employ enough New Zealanders to meet the anticipated workforce requirements. The Scheme is a good option to be aware of if you anticipate seasonal workforce issues and are struggling to find sufficient workers. If you want to know more about the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme?

The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme enables businesses in certain industries to recruit overseas workers for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers. Industries that use this scheme are mainly horticulture and viticulture.

What countries are eligible for the scheme?

Eligible countries are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

How long can workers stay in New Zealand through the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme?

People employed under the Scheme can stay in New Zealand for up to seven months during any 11-month period. Exceptions to this are workers from Tuvalu and Kiribati, who can only stay for nine months.

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