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Don’t Get Snowed Under, MBIE Offers Advice For A Successful Ski Season: Employer And Employee Rights & Responsibilities

With the ski season officially starting next month, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has advised that it is important that both employers and employees in that sector are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

This includes complying with minimum employment standards, and ensuring workers have the right to work in this country and with the specific employer, and that accommodation made available to employees meets the required standards.

David Milne, the Labour Inspectorate’s Northern Regional Manager who includes adventure sports in his portfolio, says ski field and related sector employers need to understand that no matter whether the employees are employed on a casual, part-time or fixed-term basis they all have minimum employment rights.

“This includes providing all workers with a written employment agreement, paying them at least the minimum wage if they are 16 years or older, allowing them meal and rest breaks, paying them for holidays, sick leave and for working on a public holiday.”

Mr Milne says it is important that accurate records are kept of an employee’s time worked, payments, holidays and leave taken and entitlements.

There are also some things employers may not do after hiring someone, including:

  • deducting money without the employee’s permission
  • asking them to pay a premium for hiring them or prior to hiring them
  • demanding to keep their passport
  • make the employee do a 90-day trial period unless this has been agreed to in the employment agreement prior to starting work or the trial period is invalid
  • asking an employee to deviate from their visa conditions or work while they do not have a valid visa.
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Minimum employment rights and responsibilities

“Employers need to be aware that they can only make deductions for board and lodging if both parties agree to it, while there are also other terms of such an arrangement that need to be formalised,” says Mr Milne.

For more information see: Deductions » Employment New Zealand

Visa requirements

Many overseas snow industry employees are here through the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme as specialists like snowmakers, snow-groomers, snow-patrollers are not able to be entirely filled from New Zealand’s labour pool. Last year’s first post-Covid season saw 160 ski employees granted AEWVs.

The hospitality industry which supports the sector also requires skilled workers including chefs and restaurant managers who may also be eligible for an AEWV.

Stephanie Greathead, MBIE’s National Manager, Immigration Compliance, says other visa holders who work in the snow and tourism sectors may do so on Working Holiday Visas or Student Visas.

“Regardless of the visa type, the onus is on the employer to ensure they know their employees are lawfully able to work in New Zealand. They’ll need to sight their passports and cross check them to ensure they can legally work here. Find out how at the INZ website.

“Another important step is to ensure that the conditions of people’s work visas are met,” adds Ms Greathead. “Student Visa holders for example are only allowed to work limited hours during their term time and there are varying conditions on Working Holiday Visas, dependant on which is their country of origin. Employers need to check.”

Ms Greathead says Immigration Compliance uses a graduated approach to help ensure employers are aware of and comply with their obligations, including for individual visa holders. These can include education and engagement with employers and can escalate to issuing infringements, formal warnings and even prosecution.

Ms Greathead warns that it is illegal for employers to request a fee from a visa holder to secure a job or to demand to keep their passport. Migrant workers can find out more about their rights here.

Accommodation for employees

Depending on the weather and snow conditions, work for temporary workers may last for several months, and people planning to stay for the full winter season may prefer fixed-term rental accommodation rather than staying short term in hostels or backpackers.

Brett Wilson, National Manager, Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team says, “it is important that employees understand their rights, and the landlord’s obligations when they look for accommodation, even just for a few weeks or months.”

This will avoid potentially vulnerable employees being short changed or staying in accommodation that does not meet the required standards.

“In some cases, the employer provides accommodation for the employee while they are working there. This is called a service tenancy and certain requirements must be met to comply with tenancy law,” says Mr Wilson.

All new tenancies must comply with Healthy Homes Standards, which include specific minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties.

Smoke alarms or detectors are compulsory in all rental properties and landlords must ensure they are working at the start of each new tenancy and remain in working order throughout.

If people want to learn about renting a spare room or setting up a house as a rental property have a look at the videos and checklists on the Tenancy Services website. There is also a Beginner's Guide to renting and top tips for boarding house tenants and landlords.

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