27 Feb 2017

Employers still struggling to hire NZers due to drug use - PM

8:18 pm on 27 February 2017

The government is still hearing from employers who are struggling to find enough New Zealanders to fill job vacancies, in many cases because they would not pass a drug test, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Prime Minister Bill English

Prime Minister Bill English said a lot of younger people were unable to pass the drug tests needed to gain employment. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr English was talking about the latest migration figures, which show a record run of people coming to New Zealand to live or visit in the year to January.

Last year the prime minister at the time, John Key, said he continually heard from employers frustrated with New Zealanders' work ethic and drug problems.

Mr English said he heard the same thing about two to three times a week.

"One of the hurdles these days is just passing the drug test ... Under workplace safety, you can't have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can't pass that test."

His comments were based on anecdotal evidence, he said.

"People telling me they open for applications, they get people turning up and it's hard to get someone to be able to pass the test - it's just one example.

"So look if you get around the stories, you'll hear lots of stories - some good, some not so good - about Kiwis' willingness and ability to do the jobs that are available."

Mr English said the government could not do much to address this particular problem.

"Particularly if these are younger people who are in every other respect capable of finding a job."

He said the government tended to concentrate on keeping the most at-risk young people on track.

"Getting qualifications, getting them to the start line for employment - drug issues are a bit broader than that ... it's quite a challenge when it comes to employment, more so than it used to be because it used to be quite acceptable to employ someone who was a regular drug user but now under workplace safety [rules] you just can't do it."

Mr English said exceptions should not be made for people who were on drugs but who would otherwise be fit for the job, as that could not only put them at risk, but also their colleagues.