Core worker exemptions

People subject to the workforce restriction can apply for a core worker exemption. This will lift the prohibition set out in the Children’s Act 2014 and it will no longer be against the law to employ that person as a core children’s worker.

Man leaning against wall

The workforce restriction

The Children's Act 2014 introduced a workforce restriction, which means it's unlawful to employ a core children’s worker with certain serious criminal offences unless they hold a core worker exemption.

The offences which trigger the workforce restriction generally involve child victims, or are of a sexual or violent nature. These are outlined in schedule 2 of the Act.

Schedule 2 of the Children's Act 2014

What is a core worker exemption?

People subject to the workforce restriction can apply for a core worker exemption. This will lift the prohibition set out in the workforce restriction, and it will no longer be against the law to employ that person as a core children’s worker.

An exemption is not role-specific. Subject to conditions, a holder can legally be employed in any core children’s workforce role. However, an exemption doesn’t create the right to a job – it’s still up to the employer to decide whether or not the holder of the exemption is suitable for the role they’re applying for.

The process is administered by the Ministry of Social Development on behalf of the five key agencies (the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice, Social Development as well as Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children).

Child safety will always come first, and the process is a robust and fair consideration of individual circumstances.

Who needs a core worker exemption?

Core children’s workers are employed by the state sector or local authorities (including organisations they fund) to provide regulated services, and work alone with – or have primary responsibility or authority over – children. See schedule 1 of the Act for more on regulated services:

Regulated services on legislation.govt.nz

If you are – or wish to be – a core worker, and you've been convicted of an offence specified in schedule 2 of the Children's Act, you will need a core worker exemption.

The onus is on the individual to apply and provide enough information to enable a decision to be made. The applicant must provide evidence that shows they would not pose an undue risk to the safety of children if employed or engaged in a core worker role.

The legislation does not apply to volunteers.

Core worker exemption process

Once a core worker application is received someone will contact you to discuss the next steps.

This includes gathering information from other agencies before a panel of representatives will meet to discuss your application.

The panel consists of members from the Ministries of Social Development, Health, Education, Justice, Children and New Zealand Police will consider your application and make a recommendation to the decision maker.

The panel will consider a number of factors including:

  • the offence
  • date of conviction
  • sentence imposed and the sentence expiry date
  • parole or sentencing conditions.

Panel members will also consider and discuss factors such as:

  • how long ago the conviction was and what age you were at the time
  • your history and frequency of offending
  • any aggravating or mitigating factors including, for example alcohol, drugs, anger or domestic violence issues
  • steps you’ve taken to address the behaviour (for example, rehabilitation courses or counselling)
  • any character references you’ve provided
  • evidence about your support structures (community, family or employers)
  • your work history
  • non-work time activities that evidence social support or good character (sports, arts or community involvement).

The panel may ask that you provide additional information (for example, a psychologist’s report or court records) to help them make their recommendation.

Who makes the final decision?

The final decision sits with the Chief Executive of the most appropriate government agency. They will consider your application, supporting information and the recommendation from the panel, before deciding to grant or decline your application.

The decision-maker can only grant an exemption if they are satisfied that you would not pose an undue risk to the safety of children if employed or engaged as a core worker. You’ll be informed of any adverse findings or decisions, and given the opportunity to respond.

Applying for a core worker exemption

You can apply for a core worker exemption at any time. It could be during training to work in the children’s workforce, before you seek employment or during a recruitment process.

To apply, complete and submit the application form and any supporting documentation.

Revocation

If granted, a core worker exemption will last indefinitely, unless it’s revoked. An exemption can be revoked when decision-makers:

  • become aware the person has been charged with, or convicted of a specified offence
  • have reasonable grounds to believe the person would pose an undue risk to the safety of children if employed or engaged as a core children’s worker.

Right to appeal

Applicants have a statutory right of appeal to the High Court of New Zealand if a core worker exemption has been declined or revoked.

Contact us

Email core_worker_exemption@msd.govt.nz
or call 0800 462 511

You can also write to us at:

Core Worker Exemption Advisor
Ministry of Social Development
PO BOX 1556
Wellington 6140

Helpful application information

Getting a copy of your sentencing notes

You'll need to make a request to the registrar of the court in which you were sentenced. If that court has closed, send your request to the nearest court to the one that is now closed.

You can find the postal and email addresses for courts at:

Ministry of Justice

Getting a copy of your psychological reports

If you undertook psychological treatment and rehabilitation during your sentence, this information can be obtained from the Department of Corrections.

You will be able to request a copy of the information held by emailing info@corrections.govt.nz

Further information for employers

It's an offence under the Children's Act 2014 to employ someone subject to the workforce restriction who doesn't have a core worker exemption –  non-compliance of this may lead to criminal prosecution.

Even if they are granted a core worker exemption, it is still up to the employer to decide if they're suitable for the role they're applying for. Employers are not obligated to employer someone who has been granted a core worker exemption.

Confirming a core worker exemption holder’s status

You will need to verify that a current or prospective employee holds a core worker exemption.

We don't provide exemption holders with certificates. So the only way to confirm that an individual holds one is to enquire against the core worker exemption register. 

To enquire against the register complete the enquiry form.

Confirmation of an individual’s status will only be released to employers or training institutions which have completed the verification enquiry form, which includes the written consent of the individual in question.

Published: March 28, 2017 · Updated: August 27, 2020