Working in aged care

Guides

A helpful and comprehensive guide for migrants working in New Zealand's aged care sector.

Working in Aged Care, New Zealand
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How can this guide help me?

Migrant workers are valued in Aged Care in New Zealand. No matter how long you stay in New Zealand, it is important that you enjoy your time working here.

It can take time to adjust to living and working in a new country. It is also important that you have the information and support you need, even if you are here on a temporary visa.

The information in this guide will help you prepare for working in Aged Care in New Zealand. Caring for older people in New Zealand will probably be different from what you are used to. In some countries family members care for their older relatives in their homes. In New Zealand there are a range of options. Many choose to stay in their own homes and have in-home care provided by family, friends, and community groups, or by paid workers. Others are cared for in rest homes, hospitals, retirement villages, hospices and respite facilities. Most of their care needs, including personal care, are provided by paid workers.

The New Zealand health system may be different from what you are used to. You may need to complete extra training, learn new ways of working and gain further qualifications.

You will also be adjusting to a new culture (often called ‘culture shock’), understanding New Zealand English, getting used to new ways of communicating, getting to know new banking systems and road rules. You will be making new friends and becoming a part of your new community.

There are many organisations and people in New Zealand that can help new migrants settle into working and living in New Zealand and you will find information about some of them in this guide.

Working in Aged Care in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government is committed to providing health care and support and protecting the dignity of older New Zealanders. The Ministry of Health funds these aims through District Health Boards (DHBs). 

The needs of older people

New Zealand’s population is ageing and so more and more services are provided for older people in residential facilities, hospitals and private homes. The needs of older people may include:

  • Having others noticing changes in wellbeing and reporting them
  • Medical procedures including tests and surgery
  • Assistance with getting dressed or undressed
  • Rehabilitation after surgery, injury or illness
  • Physical therapy
  • Being moved and lifted if they have limited mobility, including the use of special equipment
  • Being cared for through respite care (care to give family carers a rest) and palliative care (care given when someone is going to die in the near future)
  • Personal care including showering, toileting, cleaning teeth and brushing hair
  • Meal preparation, helping them with eating, checking that food in the person’s house is fresh and safe to eat, and that the person is having enough to drink
  • Help with cleaning floors, surfaces and bathroom areas and washing clothes
  • Help with shopping 

The rights of older people

Anyone caring for older people in New Zealand will quickly learn that their effort, understanding and compassion help older people to live with dignity and participate more fully in society.

New Zealand law protects the rights of older people who rely on their caregivers to treat them well and not take advantage of them. For legal information about the protection of older people in New Zealand visit the Health and Disability Commissioner website. You can also read the Code of Residents' Rights and Responsibilities on the New Zealand Aged Care Association's website.

Options for care

Care options for older people in New Zealand include: 

table caption
Type of care Home based- Private residence Rest Home- Group Residential Hospital Hospice Self-contained apartment lifestyle village
Self-Care X       X
Home support X       X
Day care X X      
Respite care X X     X
Rehabilitation X X X   X
Palliative X X X X  
Dementia X X X  

 

Note: Not all types of facilities provide all of the services indicated, but some do. For example some rest homes provide day care and respite care but other rest homes may not.

Roles and wages in Aged Care

There is a wide range of jobs in Aged Care in New Zealand. For more information about roles and wages visit the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand

Hours of work in Aged Care

Part-time work in Aged Care is common–that is, less than 30 hours per week.

Residential rest homes and hospitals

Many jobs in Aged Care, especially those in rest homes, residential care facilities and hospitals provide a 24/7 service, that is 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Usually there are three full-time (8-hour) working shifts to cover the 24-hour period. Where service is provided 24/7 there may be shorter shifts to suit care needs, availability of specialist staff or other factors.

Home-based care workers employed by an organisation

Carers at the desk in the office

For care workers supporting people in their own homes, the hours of work are usually between 6am and 8pm and usually from Monday to Friday. Within that time, work hours may be part-time and while employers try to ensure a regular number of hours this is not always possible. Home care workers visit the homes of the people they support but do not live there, so workers need their own place to live. They will need to provide a vehicle and have a New Zealand driver licence. Travel costs including travel time and training time may not be fully reimbursed by the employer.

Home-based care workers employed by an older person or their family

Some people pay for support workers to live with them in their homes and to care for them. It is important that anyone in this kind of work knows what is expected of them, how they will be paid and what their work rights are. Care workers who rely on their employer for accommodation may be more vulnerable to working longer hours without extra pay.

Getting international qualifications recognised

If you intend to use your overseas qualification to get a job in New Zealand you need to make sure the qualification is recognised by the New Zealand sector you want to work in. This is separate from getting any recognition of your qualification from Immigration New Zealand, such as getting points for your qualification when applying for a residence visa.

The first step to getting your qualifications recognised in New Zealand so you can work, study or apply to migrate here, is to find out if your qualification needs to be assessed against the standards set by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). Assessment can take up to 35 days. Costs and other information can be found at the NZQA  website. 

International Qualifications | NZQA

New Zealand registration for internationally registered health professionals

A health professional who is registered overseas may have to be registered with a board or council in New Zealand and may need a current practising certificate.

A nurse who is registered overseas will need to apply to the Nursing Council of New Zealand for registration.

For more information about New Zealand registration boards visit the Ministry of Health website.

Health workforce | Ministry of Health

Man being cared for in his garden

Before you are granted a work or residence visa, you will generally need to show evidence that you hold the New Zealand registration needed to do the job you are going to do in New Zealand.

Requirements for registration

Applicants for registration must provide evidence that they:

  • have an international nursing qualification equivalent to the one in New Zealand
  • are competent to practise within their scope of practice
  • are fit for registration. This includes the ability to communicate effectively in English for the purpose of practising nursing.

Applicants from all countries (except Australia) have to sit an English language assessment before making an application. Once the paperwork is received, the application will be considered within 30 working days. The Nursing Council of New Zealand strongly recommends that you do not make plans to move to New Zealand until you have completed registration (or have been advised to complete a Competence Assessment Programme - CAP - and have a placement on the programme, if necessary). For application forms, guides and more information visit the Nursing Council website.

International registration | Nursing Council of New Zealand

Getting to New Zealand

New Zealand needs people with skills to work in Aged Care. Immigration New Zealand has information to help you plan and prepare for living and working in New Zealand.

New Zealand Now

New Zealand Now logo

If you are overseas and thinking about coming to New Zealand, the New Zealand Now website is a great guide to living and working here. When you register on the website, you will receive emails about living in New Zealand, including work, housing, schooling, culture and fitting in. The site also covers work visa options.  

New Zealand Now

New Zealand Ready

NZ Ready is a free online planning tool for people moving to New Zealand. It creates a task list for you where you can add notes and check things off. Your task list can’t get lost as it’s always online.

NZ Ready

Visa options

Some of New Zealand’s visa categories are targeted at helping employers to fill gaps in their workforce, yet ensuring that New Zealanders seeking employment are not disadvantaged.

Visa options for migrants wanting to work in Aged Care will depend on their occupation, skill level, English ability and whether your qualification is recognised in New Zealand.

Most migrants will need an offer of employment. There are also health and character checks. You may need to become registered with a professional body in New Zealand. More information about visa options can be found on the immigration website.

Find a visa | Immigration New Zealand

Working in New Zealand | Immigration New Zealand

Bringing family to New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand allows you to bring family members to New Zealand if your family meet immigration requirements. Family members usually refer to your partner and your dependent children. Parents may be eligible under a Parent Category.

A couple with their daughter

Your family will need to be prepared to live in a different culture. It is helpful if you tell your employer if you intend to bring your family to New Zealand. If family do join you, think about the following questions:

  • Can they speak English?
  • Do you earn enough to support them?
  • Is there a place for them to live?
  • What schools will your children go to?
  • Can your partner/spouse drive?
  • If they want to work, do they have the right visa to work?
  • How can they find a job?
  • What social life or support networks will they have?
  • What public services, such as healthcare, are they eligible for?
  • Can they adjust to a new country?

For more information about bringing your family to New Zealand visit the Immigration website.

Find a visa | Immigration New Zealand

Advice to temporary workers

The conditions of your visa specify your position, employer, and location of employment. You can work only within the conditions of your visa.

Contact your nearest Immigration New Zealand office if you want to change the conditions stated on your visa. If you want to change your employer, you may request a Variation of Conditions. If you change jobs, you should know that your previous employer may also tell Immigration New Zealand.

If you want to stay in New Zealand after the expiry date on your visa, you will need to apply for a further visa well before the expiry date. It is important to remember that Immigration New Zealand’s visa requirements may change to ensure that New Zealanders seeking employment are not disadvantaged, so you may not get another visa.

Changes to your visa including extending the period and applying for a new visa can take time. Avoid problems by applying two to three months ahead. 15 | Working in Aged Care in New Zealand There are occupations in the Aged Care sector that will not lead to permanent residence in New Zealand. Unless you apply for residence under partnership, or are a secondary applicant in another residence application, living in New Zealand permanently is unlikely.

You must leave New Zealand or apply for a new visa before your visa expires. If you have questions about your visa call the Immigration New Zealand Contact Centre.

Contact 

Immigration Contact Centre

Phone: Immigration New Zealand Contact Centre 0508 558 855
Ask for "Language Line" if you need an interpreter.

Important rights to remember:

  • No one is allowed to threaten you if you change jobs.
  • No one is allowed to keep your passport or your personal documents.
  • By law, your employer must deduct tax and ACC levies from your wages. An employer cannot deduct other money from wages without your agreement in writing.
  • Your employer cannot tell you how to spend your wages.

New Zealand Government officials and most employers are happy to help new migrants with any challenges they face in New Zealand. You should be open and honest with them, even if the problem is difficult to discuss. If you have questions about your employment, call the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Contact Centre. 

Contact 

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Phone the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Contact Centre: 0800 20 90 20
Ask for "Language Line" if you need an interpreter.

If your employer or a recruitment agent has your passport without your permission, report this to your local police station. 

Police officer

New Zealand law

Newcomers to New Zealand have the same rights and responsibilities as any person living here. You must obey New Zealand law.

Breaking the law can put your visa status, and your family’s status, at risk. Immigration New Zealand can require people who do not have New Zealand citizenship to leave New Zealand if they consider the offence calls into question the migrant’s good character.

This can include any criminal offending (such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and may apply to migrants with permanent residence visas as well as temporary workers, regardless of the reason for your stay, or the needs of your employer.

New Zealand Workplace

You are protected by the minimum entitlements in law.

Employment agreements

A New Zealand employer must give you a written copy of the proposed employment agreement when they offer you a job. You can take the employment agreement away to read, get advice and discuss with other people before you sign it and accept the job.

Some workplaces may have a collective employment agreement that is agreed between the employer and a union. Ask your employer or another worker whether your workplace has this kind of agreement.

If anything in the agreement is not clear, ask your employer. If the agreement has things you don’t like, you’re entitled to discuss them with your employer and to try and negotiate changes.

Once you and your new employer have both signed the agreement, ask for a copy and keep it safe. You may need to check the terms and conditions you originally agreed to, if there is a disagreement later.

Your employer is required to keep an accurate record of the time you work, payments you receive and your holiday and leave entitlements. Your employer is required to provide this information to you if you ask for it.

Minimum wage

The adult minimum wage rate is the minimum amount that must be paid to an employee aged 16 years and over. The minimum wage is reviewed every year. To view the current rates visit the Employment New Zealand website.

The minimum wage | Employment NZ

Deductions

Money cannot be deducted from your pay unless you agree to it, in writing. Some deductions (such as PAYE tax and ACC) are required by law and do not require written consent.

A 90-Day trial period

It is important that you know New Zealand employers can offer a 90-day trial period to employees. You must be paid during this trial period.

Any trial period that you agree to with an employer must be agreed to in good faith as part of your written employment agreement.

This agreement must be signed by both you and your employer before you start work. There can be a trial period only if the employee has not worked for that employer before.

For information about support and protection for anyone employed on a 90- day trial, visit the Employment New Zealand website.

If you are dismissed from your employment under the terms of the 90-day trial period, this is a change to your circumstances. When you apply for a visa, the application states that you must advise Immigration New Zealand if there is ANY change to your circumstances.

Each visa type has its own conditions and you need to phone the Immigration New Zealand Contact Centre to find out how this affects you and what your options are.

If you are dismissed during your 90-day trial period you may be eligible to apply for a visitor visa of up to three months duration to give you time to find another job, or to leave New Zealand. 

90 Day trial period | Employment NZ 

Kiwisaver

KiwiSaver is a voluntary, work-based scheme to help New Zealanders with long-term saving for retirement.

Temporary visa holders are not eligible to join KiwiSaver. All other eligible employees will be automatically enrolled into KiwiSaver. You can choose not to be in the KiwiSaver scheme by completing an “opt out” form. This has to be done within eight weeks of the day you start work. For more information, visit the KiwiSaver website.

KiwiSaver

Annual holidays

You have the right to at least four weeks of paid annual holidays after you have completed a year of employment.

You can take at least two weeks together. You cannot be forced to cash up any holiday leave (that is, change your holiday leave for money).

If your employment is for less than a year you should be paid holiday pay at the end of your employment. This is calculated at 8%1 of your pay before tax 1. As at 1/1/2014 Working in Aged Care in New Zealand | 20 is deducted or any other adjustment made (gross earning) and a proportion of this amount will be paid if you work for less than 12 months.

If you have a fixed-term employment agreement of less than 12 months, or if you are a casual worker with very intermittent or irregular work patterns, you can agree to have 8%2 of gross earning added to your regular pay instead of paid time off work.

This must be specified in your written employment agreement and the amount of holiday pay must be recorded as a separate amount in your wages.

Public holidays

In addition to annual holidays, you are also entitled to public holidays.

When a public holiday is on a day you would normally work, you are entitled to have the day off work and be paid as if you had worked it.

If you agree to work on a public holiday you are entitled to receive time-and-a-half for the hours you work and another paid day off.

Employers and employees can agree to transfer a public holiday to another working day to meet the needs of the business or the needs of the employee.

This agreement should be in writing. Employees who may want to exchange public holidays for their own religious holidays can visit the Employment New Zealand website for further information.

Transferring a public holiday | Employment NZ

Bereavement leave

After six months’ employment, you are entitled to paid bereavement leave if someone close to you dies.

If that person is your spouse or partner, child, brother or sister, mother or father, grandparent, grandchild, or parent of your spouse or partner you are entitled to three days’ leave.

For other bereavements you may be entitled to one days’ leave. When close family or friends die in your home country, it is very difficult for you being so far away.

You can have bereavement leave, if you need it. If you do not have enough bereavement leave to cover the time you may need, you can ask if you can take annual leave or unpaid leave.

Sick leave

As a minimum you are entitled to five days’ paid sick leave each year after you have been employed continuously by the same employer for six months.

Sick leave can be used when you are sick or injured or when your spouse or partner, or a person who depends on you for care (such as a child or elderly parent) is sick or injured.

If you are sick before you have worked for six months you can ask your employer if you can use some of your annual leave or take unpaid leave.

Flexible work arrangements

Employees with caring responsibilities have the right to ask for a change to their hours of work, days of work, or place of work. Employers must consider a request and can refuse it only on certain grounds. 

Flexible working arrangements | Employment NZ

Parental leave

Employees who are having a baby can apply for parental leave. Workers adopting babies can also apply for parental leave.

For more information about eligibility, paid and unpaid leave visit the Employment New Zealand website.

Parental leave | Employment NZ

Health and safety at work

New Zealand has laws to protect people at work. You may come to your new workplace in New Zealand with different understandings about safety at work.

It is your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace, with the right training, supervision and equipment. It is also your responsibility to keep yourself safe at work.

Your employer must provide you with information about health and safety before you start work. This will include telling you about hazards and how they must be managed to reduce the risk of injury.

They must also provide you with protective equipment which you need in some situations to do the job safely, for example, disposable gloves if you are toileting or showering older people. Many workplaces have health and safety representatives who provide health and safety information.

When you start work, the information you receive must include what to do in an emergency (such as a fire or chemical spill) and where emergency equipment and first aid kits are kept.

Your employer must also tell you how to report any hazard, accident or “near miss” to them (a “near miss” is an incident, accident or emergency that could have caused injury, but didn’t). You also need to be aware that employers and workers may be prosecuted if there is an accident and the law has not been followed.

If you do not feel you have enough information or training for a task, talk to your employer or manager.

If you believe your health and safety is at risk tell your employer or manager immediately. Under law you can refuse to do any work you believe will put you in danger.

Your employer must also tell you what to do, and what not to do if a client has a medical emergency or other unexpected event.

You visit Worksafe New Zealand’s website to learn more about health and safety requirements, your rights, and how to make a complaint about health and safety problems.

WorkSafe 

Your rights in the workplace

The Aged Care sector in New Zealand can be a great place to work and can be very rewarding. The older people depend on your care. How you do this has a big impact on their health and wellbeing. Many express their gratitude by saying thank you and through telling their family and others about how well they are cared for.

carer and her employer

However, if you feel that you are being treated unfairly at work there is support for you. You are protected by New Zealand employment law.

If you feel unhappy, talk to your manager or employer or union representative, in the first instance, about any concerns. They may be able to help you or direct you to someone who can.

Some workplaces provide an EAP – Employee Assistance Programme. This is a free service where employees can talk confidentially to an independent person about work or personal concerns. Ask your manager or employer if your workplace provides this service.

Workplace culture in New Zealand

Some parts of New Zealand are very multi-cultural. Many workplaces are likely to have a mix of people from different countries and cultures. 

Hot tip

New Zealand is a bi-cultural nation

In 1840, England formalised a partnership between its representative in New Zealand, known as “The Crown” and the inhabitants recognised as “Tangata Whenua” or the people of the land, creating a bi-cultural agreement.

To find out more about the Treaty of Waitangi visit the Te Ara website. 
Treaty of Waitangi | Te Ara

New Zealand has three official languages; English, Māori and New Zealand Sign language. You may find signs in your workplace in English or Māori or both. There may be other practices in your workplace that relate to Māori culture. Ask your manager or employer to explain.

With such a rich history of migrants coming to work in New Zealand there are now many cultures that are well established in their local communities. The aging population in New Zealand is likely to reflect older people from many cultures and backgrounds. 

What are Kiwis like at work?

(Kiwis is a common name used for people who live in New Zealand)

Compared with workers from some countries, Kiwis:

  • expect everyone to be treated the same
  • respect the boss, but usually speak to him or her in a relaxed way and are willing to make suggestions
  • like to work without being closely supervised
  • are willing to work on a range of tasks.

What are Kiwis like to care for?

Most older people who rely on others to provide care will be grateful for your work and they may take an interest in your life.

Some people you care for may not have family members who visit regularly or who live nearby and they may appreciate you taking an interest in their life. Every individual is different and as you care for them, you will get to know what they do and don’t like. It is important to keep professional boundaries at work, if you are unsure about this ask your manager or employer.

There may be a small number of older people in New Zealand who may be unwilling to receive care from a person from another country or culture. Reasons for this may include their difficulty understanding your accent or perceived cultural differences. It may be a personal preference or something to do with a health condition. 

If you have questions or concerns, talk to your employer or manager or contact one of the organisations mentioned on page 27.

Communication

How Kiwis communicate

Good communication is at the heart of working in Aged Care. It is important that you understand what is being said to you and it is equally important that others can understand what you are saying. Sometimes people find it hard to understand an accent that they are not familiar with.

There is help if you need to improve your English. Some community groups provide help. 

English Language 

Communicating with your "boss", supervisor, manager, employer

You don’t always have to agree with the boss in New Zealand. It’s important to follow instructions, and it’s also ok to challenge, question or complain politely sometimes.

Employer saying, "Can you work an extra shift on Saturday?" and carer saying, "I'm sorry I would like to say yes, but I have a community event that day."

Communicating with work colleagues from different cultures

Being able to communicate well and interact with workmates is important if you want to fit into your new work team. Most new employees find it useful to learn the style of working together and communicating that is common in their workplace.

Suggestions for fitting in include: try greeting colleagues and your boss with a smile in the morning and respond to their greeting. Join in conversations at tea and lunch breaks. Things Kiwis like to talk about include the weather, the news, sport, the traffic, last night’s TV programmes. Say goodbye at the end of the working day.

Communicating with older people and their families

Kiwis are not usually direct, especially when they ask people to do things. They like to sound polite and to build good working relationships. Instead of telling people what to do, they often make suggestions. This is important in your communications with older people and their family members.

They often use an older person’s first name, and sometimes greet an older person as “dear”. They frequently check with an older person before they do something for them or say what they are going to do before they do it. 

Carer says, "Im going to take your blood pressure, Mr. Green. Okay?" Gentleman says, "Okay dear"

Help with communication

You may hear words at work that you don’t understand. Some may be Kiwi expressions or others Māori words. If you hear new words or expressions you don’t understand, ask about them or you could look at one of the following websites:

Kiwi language

Kiwi- words and phrases

Maori language Te Reo Maori
English expressions

Using English

Workplace communication

WorkTalk

Terms used in Aged Care

Eldernet

Living in New Zealand

Accommodation

photo of houses

There are many different accommodation options. These include:

  • Boarding with a New Zealand family – sometimes referred to as “private boarding” or “billeting”
  • Staying in a “bed and breakfast”
  • Flatting - sharing a house or apartment with others
  • Renting accommodation
  • Buying a home
  • Dedicated worker accommodation (possibly arranged through your employer, if you are employed by the person you are caring for, or their family)

Renting in New Zealand

Rental accommodation in New Zealand may be different from in your country. For example, New Zealand rental properties are usually unfurnished. This means that, although an oven must be provided for cooking, you have to provide your own furniture (including beds and linen), refrigerator, washing machine, cutlery and cooking equipment.

Some older houses in New Zealand can be very cold because they are not insulated and don’t have heating in every room.

If you bring family to New Zealand, you may want to come in advance and stay in temporary accommodation while you find somewhere for your family to live.

General information on tenancy law and detailed information on rental property costs by type and location is available on the Tenancy website.

The cost of rental accommodation varies by location and quality. Initial rental costs can include paying a bond of up to four weeks’ rent in advance.

Tenants pay bonds to landlords to cover potential future expenses, such as unpaid rent, damage to the property (if that damage can be shown to be your fault) or any other claim. If none of these expenses need to be paid when the tenancy ends, the tenant gets their bond money back. Other costs may include letting agent fees – usually one weeks’ rent plus 15 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Tenancy Services

Driving

cars driving on a busy road

You need a current driver licence from your home country to drive in New Zealand. You may also need an international driving permit or a translation of your licence if it is not written in English.

If you are in New Zealand for more than one year, you need to get a New Zealand driver licence or convert your overseas licence to a New Zealand licence. There may be written and practical tests. You must always carry your driver licence when you are driving.

Your vehicle needs to be safe and have a current Warrant of Fitness, from a licensed agent. Your vehicle also needs a current vehicle registration. We drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand. Seat belts and child restraints are compulsory. It is illegal to use a mobile phone when driving unless it is an approved hands-free model.

For more information about driving in New Zealand, see the New Zealand Transport Agency guide “New residents and visitors- driving in New Zealand”.

New residents and visitors- driving in New Zealand | NZTA

Climate

New Zealand’s climate might be different from what you expect and from what you are used to.

Summer is between December and February and winter is between June and August.

The northern regions are generally warmer than southern regions.

New Zealand weather can change very quickly – sometimes New Zealand can have four seasons in one day! This means you need to be prepared for any weather changes when you leave the house in the morning.

Protection from the sun is important. New Zealand has high levels of harmful ultra violet (UV) radiation. UV radiation can burn and damage your skin even on cloudy days when you feel cool. Sunburn can cause melanomas and other skin cancers.

To avoid sunburn, it is important to:

  • Wear a hat and clothing that covers your skin
  • apply sunscreen (SPF 30+)
  • wear wraparound sunglasses to help protect your eyes.

Education

School age children of temporary workers will be issued a student visa (domestic) as long as the temporary visa holder is earning the minimum annual income of NZ $33,675 gross (as at March 2013).

To avoid any delay that could lead to having to pay international student fees for schooling, apply for children’s student visa before you arrive in New Zealand.

Education and schooling

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