PM claims drug use is driving talent shortage

Around 140,000 Kiwis are currently out of work yet many employers still struggle to recruit – now, Bill English claims failed drug tests are to blame.

PM claims drug use is driving talent shortage

Despite an estimated 140,000 Kiwis currently being out of work, employers in certain industries are still struggling with talent shortages – the reason, according to PM Bill English, is a widespread inability to pass drug tests.

“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,” English said at a press conference held yesterday.

“I’m regularly told by employers that one of the significant barriers is getting younger people through drug tests,” he continued, saying he hears the complaints two or three times a week, from employers across all industries.

“It’s a very common discussion,” he said. “It’s not an exception at all these days, for that discussion to be had.”

When asked what the government planned to do to alleviate the situation, English couldn’t offer employers much comfort.

“There’s not a lot you can do directly about that, it is 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, you just can’t do it.”

English also said the talent shortage wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for New Zealand as it should be driving employers to improve their pay and conditions.

“You’re seeing that happen in the construction industry particularly in Auckland, pay rates going up,” he said. “If you want to get the labour and you can’t get it then putting your wages up is one way to fix that problem.”

However, critics pointed out that – thanks to record immigration rates over the past 12 months – many employers were relying on overseas recruits to fill gaps, rather than boost wages or improve conditions.


For employers who are looking for an update on the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, industry leading specialist Garth Galloway will holding an informative session at the upcoming Employment Law for HR Managers masterclass next week. More information on the event can be found online.


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