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Communtity Law Manual | Work & Income | Help getting into work or self-employment

Types of benefits

Help getting into work or self-employment

This section explains a number of different measures by which Work and Income provides assistance to those looking for jobs, starting a new job, or setting up self-employment.

Assistance to Transition into Employment (formerly “Transition to Work Grant”)

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368; Employment and Work Readiness Assistance Programme, Sched, clause 6

The main form of assistance to work is called “Assistance to Transition into Employment” (before 2014, it was called the “Transition to Work Grant”). You can receive up to $1,500 in a 12-month period to pay for the following costs:

  • job interview costs, such as clothes and travel
  • the cost of interpreters
  • the cost of tools or clothing needed for work
  • moving costs
  • living expenses until your first pay.

To get Assistance to Transition into Employment, you must be at least 16 and be looking for a job, or starting a job, or between jobs. You may have to satisfy a cash-asset test and an income test.

(Assistance to Transition into Employment is different from the variety of wage-subsidy programmes that can be paid to employers. Those subsidies are not discussed in this chapter, as they change frequently.)

New Employment Transition Grant

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368; New Employment Transition Grant Programme

A New Employment Transition Grant is available, up to a daily or six-monthly maximum amount, if you have a dependent child or children and either:

  • you can’t work because you, your partner, or your dependent child is sick and you have no sick leave available, or
  • there has been a breakdown in childcare arrangements, and you have no paid leave available.

You must also have stopped getting a benefit within the last six months. You can only get the grant if your partner can’t care for the child.

Seasonal Work Assistance Programme

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368; Seasonal Work Assistance Programme

You may be able to get payments under the Seasonal Work Assistance Programme if you’ve been on a benefit within the last six months and you’re prevented from working in a seasonal job because of bad weather. There is both a cash-asset test and an income test.

Employment Transition Grant (for those previously on Supported Living Payment)

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368, Sched 2 (definitions: “open employment”, “sheltered employment”); Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act 1960, s 3 (definition of “sheltered employment”); Employment Transition Programme

If you’ve been receiving the Supported Living Payment, an Employment Transition Grant is available if:

  • you’ve completed an Employment Trial (this is where Work and Income agrees to you working for up to 26 weeks while remaining on your benefit), and
  • you no longer qualify for the benefit, and
  • you’re working 15 or more hours a week in “open” employment (this means employment that’s available to anyone with the required skills, that pays no less than the minimum wage, and that isn’t sheltered employment: see below for what “sheltered employment” means)
  • you’re now earning less than the amount of the benefit, and
  • you can’t continue working without an Employment Transition Grant.

Work and Income interprets “sheltered employment” to mean “Employment conditions that have been designed to cater for the needs of a person’s disability or illness”. This includes, but isn’t limited to, what used to be called “sheltered workshops” (which are now called “contracted business enterprises” by Work and Income).

The Employment Transition Grant is in effect a wage top-up. It is paid to you along with your wages and a benefit other than the Supported Living Payment.

The Employment Transition Grant will stop if:

Suspension of debt repayments

Social Security Act 2018, s 448; Social Security Regulations 2018, regs 227–244

If you start a job but owe a debt to Work and Income, deductions from your income to repay the debt can be suspended for up to three months.

Assistance with self-employment

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368; Employment and Work Readiness Assistance Programme, Sched, clause 8

If you’re on a benefit, the following assistance to help you start up your own business may be available:

  • A Business Training and Advice Grant of up to $1,000 per year may be available to cover the costs of business training and advice, including developing a business plan. You can apply for this more than once.
  • Self-Employment Start-Up is a lump sum (or series of lump sums) of up to $10,000 over 12 months to cover essential business start-up costs, such as rent, buying or leasing equipment (such as furniture), buying stock, and insurance costs.
  • The Flexi-Wage for Self-Employment is a short term wage subsidy to help you with living costs while you start out working for yourself. It’s paid every four weeks up to a maximum of 52 weeks. It’s not a benefit paid under the Social Security Act, it’s a contract between you and Ministry of Social Development, so the normal review and appeal processes that apply to benefits aren’t available to you. Instead you can take any disputes to the Disputes Tribunal (see the chapter “The Disputes Tribunal”) or the District Court.

Challenging decisions about assistance into work or self-employment

You can challenge Work and Income decisions refusing to grant you assistance by applying for a review by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

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