Hundreds of essential skilled migrant workers in the aged care and disability support sectors are relieved they can go back to work without the fear of being stood down, now that their lesser-paid ‘sleepover’ or overnight shifts will no longer count towards the remuneration terms of their visa.
In April, Immigration New Zealand determined that sleepover rates – which are paid at minimum wage of $20 per hour rather than the workers’ normal hourly pay rate – would be used in the calculation to assess their earnings, a key condition of their visa.
Essential Skills or Skilled Migrant Category work visas require aged care and disability support workers to paid at a minimum of $25.50 per hour or above for 30 hours per week.
However, many in the sector work both day and sleepover shifts, and the inclusion of the sleepover rate was bringing down their average pay rate too low to meet the remuneration requirements of their visa.
E tū delegate and health and safety representative Manni Sardana, who has a current visa, says due to Immigration New Zealand changing the regulation, her employer stood her down from her sleepover shifts for two weeks.
“The people I support were asking me why I was leaving them. I had to tell them I didn’t know who would be coming at night.
“They were furious as they don’t have the same trust in relieving workers. They can have a relaxed, sound sleep when they know the person staying over.”
Distressed, Manni immediately made contact with E tū and reached out to others to see what could be done.
She says although her manager was supportive, the experience had been stressful, and she will be seeking backpay for her regular missed sleepover shifts.
E tū health director Sam Jones says the impact on workers and the potential for thousands with disabilities to be left without support meant the union acted quickly to address the issue.
“We fully support the changes made by Immigration New Zealand to remove the sleepover rate from the wage rate calculations for the affected visa categories. This issue had the potential to affect hundreds of our members.
“It’s great to see a sensible and quick solution has been reached, ensuring the most vulnerable in our communities will receive the support they deserve, and that this group of support workers and their families can continue to earn a living and provide this crucial support, as they did during COVID-19.
The regulation change is effective from 24 May.
Sam says now Immigration New Zealand has reversed its decision, essential skilled migrants are fine to work their sleepover shifts – as long as they are guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours of work outside of that at or above the required hourly rate.
Having the 30-hours-per-week requirement also functions as protection for essential skilled migrant workers, he says.
However, Sam says the support sector still needs to raise the sleepover rate for workers.
“We won the right to proper wages for sleepover shifts back in 2012, when we proved this particular shift counted as ‘work’.
“Now it’s time for the Government to fund providers in the sector to step up and ensure sleepover pay rates match workers’ hourly day rate.”
more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563