Bill English: Drug abuse preventing young Kiwis from working

The prime minister says business owners are telling him it's difficult to hire young Kiwis because many can't pass a drug test.

Prime Minister Bill English says he has regular conversations with business owners across the country who can’t hire young Kiwi staff because many can’t pass a drug test.

He made the comments at his weekly post-cabinet press conference after being asked about New Zealand’s record migration numbers.

“We’re getting complaints from businesses talking about the increased difficulty of recruiting people to carry out the jobs they have available.”

One of the biggest hurdles for young people these days is just passing a drug test, Mr English says.

He says he has roughly two or three conversations a week with business owners who are worried about the problem.

In safety-sensitive workplaces, pre-employment testing can be used by employers to show that they are serious about managing the alcohol and drug risks within the workplace, according to Employment New Zealand.

Generally, an employer may only ask employees and other workers to agree to alcohol or drugs tests if this is a condition of their appointment and in the employment agreement or workplace policies.

Mr English says this is a concern for most industries across New Zealand.

“It’s not exceptional at all these days for that discussion to be had.

“[I’ve received] anecdotal evidence from people telling me they open applications, they get people turning up and it’s hard to get someone who is able to pass a [drug] test.”

Mr English wouldn’t elaborate on what drugs were the main causes for concern.

He says either people using drugs change their habits or they won't be able to get a job.

Meanwhile, he says there has been “robust complaining” from the hospitality industry about their ability to recruit bar and café managers.

He says that struggle extends to the horticulture and agriculture industries particularly in the regions.

“In Hawkes Bay, [businesses] know there is going to be an additional 1000 jobs with the horticultural growth over the next four or five years,” he says.

“[Businesses] want locals in those jobs, but are finding it quite challenging.”

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