Trial periods work for businesses and workers


Employers are using the 90 day trial  period to reduce the risk of taking on new staff and they are employing more people because of it.

This is one of the findings from research undertaken by the Department of Labour:

The Employers’ Perspectives – Part One: Trial Periods research is based on the findings of the National Survey of Employers of around 2,000 employers and qualitative interviews with 53 employers in Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin/Invercargill from the retail, hospitality, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and manufacturing industries.

The report found:

• Sixty percent of hiring employers in the national survey reported using a trial period since its introduction (49 percent in 2010). There is not a significant difference between the level of use in SME’s and larger employers.
• Employers use trial periods to address risk when hiring, for example:
o To check an employee’s ability for the job before making a commitment to employ permanently (66 percent)
o To employ someone with the skills required, but where the business is unsure about their ‘fit’ with the workplace (35 percent)
o To avoid incurring costs if staff are unsuitable for the job (13 percent)

• Employers used trial periods to test the viability of a position (rather than person) within the business, saying they would not have filled their most recently vacant position without a trial period. This was more likely in SME’s (30 percent), compared with 17 percent for larger employers.

• Trial periods improved employment opportunities – 41 percent of employers in the national survey said they would not have hired the most recent employee without a trial period. 
• SME’s were more likely to use trial periods to take a risk – 44 percent of SME’s would not have hired the last trial period employee without the use of a trial period, compared with 28 percent of larger employers. 
• Youth and long-term unemployed are benefitting. Respondents to the qualitative interviews said trial periods were one of the key government initiatives that had improved their willingness to hire applicants from these groups – due to reduction of risk. 
• Eighty percent of employers in the survey reported they had continued employing staff once the trial period had ended. . This is similar to the level found in the 2010 evaluation of trial periods in SME’s.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson, is justified in welcoming this news:

“Research by NZIER has previously told us that 90-day trials led to 13,000 new jobs in small and medium sized businesses,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“This latest research confirms trial periods allow employers to take on new staff, with the majority retaining their staff after the trial period is over. That’s great to see.

“The 90-day trials have been especially beneficial for young people and the long-term unemployed. it’s of clear benefit to both employers and employees.”

The opposition and unions fought against this legislation but these findings show it is working for employers and employees. 

 Businesses  face less risk when taking on new staff and they are taking on more staff including those least likely to get work without the safety net of a trial period, the long-term unemployed and young people, because of that.

Rather than opening the door to exploitation as the left prophesied the legislation has reduced risk for businesses and increased employment opportunities which is exactly what is was designed to do.

Coroner’s recommendation not realistic for quads


The deaths of 120 people in quad bike accidents over the last 10 years is a matter of concern but the Labour Department has made the right call in rejecting a coroner’s recommendations for compulsory  lap belts and roll bars.

The department says lap belts would make it extremely difficult to “actively ride” a quad bike and the science of roll bar protection is incomplete.

Filipino beekeeper Jody Dean Santos, 21, of Masterton, died from a massive skull fracture days after he was “catapulted” off a quad bike he was riding at work in August 2008.

In his findings on the death, Wellington Coroner Ian Smith said accidents involving quad bikes had concerned coroners for a long time – about 120 had been killed on them in the past 10 years.

Mr Smith said he was frustrated by the failure of authorities to take up the recommendations coroners “consistently” made.

He recommended the Labour and Transport ministers undertake an immediate investigation to consider the mandatory use of helmets, roll bars and lap belts on all quad bikes.

There’s no debate about the use of helmets but roll bars require more research and lap belts would increase the danger of riding quads.

But Department of Labour national support manager Mike Munnelly said that while it supported compulsory helmet wearing, to ride a quad bike safely it was absolutely necessary to be able to stand up and to shift body weight for balance – or “active riding”.

“A lap belt or restraining system makes it extremely difficult for a rider to make these safety corrections and exposes them to increased danger,” Mr Munnelly said.

Even if this wasn’t the case the number of times riders get on and off a bike on farms would mean they’d be very unlikely to use a belt.

The department launched a quad bike safety programme last year. It pushes the message that riders must be trained and experienced enough to do the job, children should not ride adult quad bikes, always wear a helmet and choose the right vehicle for the job.

That is very good advice which we do our best to ensure our employees heed.

Alf Grumble gives his view on this issue in: if it’s a good idea for more people to belt up let’s start with coroners.

RSE works for workers, employers and as aid


The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme is working well.

Reports from the World Bank and Department of Labour confirm multiple benefits.

The scheme permits horticulturists and viticulturists to employ workers from Pacific Islands  and a few parts of Asia, during the harvest.

This solves the problem of worker shortages for employers and gives work to people from poor countries to the benefit of both.

The World Bank report shows this is having a positive development role for the Pacific. Workers earn far more than they could at home and take most of their earnings back to save or use to pay for their children’s education or for consumer goods.

It concludes:

Recognised Seasonal Employer programme has indeed had largely positive development impacts. It has increased income and consumption of households, allowed households to purchase more durable goods, increased the subjective standard of living, and had additional benefits at the community level. It also increased child schooling in Tonga.

This should rank it among the most effective development policies evaluated to date. The policy was designed as a best practice example based on lessons elsewhere, and now should serve as a model for other countries to follow.

The DoL report found workers from Kiribati and Tuvalu got little if any benefit, although this was partly explained by the small number of workers from there.

But workers from Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa benefited financially from the RSE policy.

The most frequent uses of savings by workers were to pay school fees and buy school uniforms; renovate or build new homes; purchase land and cattle; support other relatives; pay for family events; purchase vehicles, boats, equipment, and electronic goods; and repay bank and other loans.

Some workers used their savings to start or expand business ventures and other activities to generate income (for example, cattle farming, a taxi business, a store, and a vehicle-hire business).  

While financial rewards were the most important benefit, workers also valued their newly acquired skills, especially time management skills, English language skills, and an improved work ethic. Some workers discussed how the skills they had learnt in the vineyard or orchard could be transferred to their farms at home or to business ventures they were considering. Return workers said they were better at managing and saving their money.

Not all workers were in New Zealand long enough to enable them to save sufficient after paying their airfares and living costs. There are also problems from the prolonged absence of parents and spouses.

The majority of RSE employers reported immediate benefits from the scheme including a reliable, enthusiastic and productive workforce, reduced recruitment and training costs, increased confidence to expand and invest, and reduced stress.

Employers identified factors that contributed to the productivity levels of RSE workers: Pacific workers coped well with the physically demanding manual work involved in harvesting crops in very hot, cold, or windy conditions; and were  more willing to work long hours, weekends, and night shifts than New Zealand workers.

A consistent theme that emerged from employer interviews was the improved quality of produce due to having skilled workers to pick and pack crops while they were in optimum condition. Other results were improvements to the supply chain as a result of a reliable workforce, and improved performance of New Zealand workers due to the demonstration effects of RSE workers.

The report concludes the policy has achieved what it set out to do.

Employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries have access to a reliable and stable seasonal workforce. The labour supply crises of previous years have been avoided and employers can now plan and manage their businesses with confidence.

As the policy enters its third year, there are indications many employers are now also benefiting from skilled labour as workers return for subsequent seasons. Significant productivity gains were reported in the second season, together with improvements in harvest quality.

Alongside the employer ‘wins’, Pacific workers and three Pacific states have benefited financially from participating in the RSE Policy. Skill development has also been identified as a positive outcome for workers.

Aid usually means taking money or skills to other countries. The RSE scheme allows people from the Pacific to come here where they help our horticulturists and viticulturists and in doing so help themselves.

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