Working with children

Vulnerable Children Act requirements

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 was part of a series of comprehensive measures brought in to protect and improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children.

Here you'll find information and resources for employers, organisations and individuals relating to the act. 

core worker exemption couple

The workforce restriction

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 introduces 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.

Vulnerable Children Act schedule 2

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 four key agencies (the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice and Social Development).

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 Vulnerable Children 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.

Central government

The following dates applied to employees and prospective employees of central government:

  • From 1 July 2015, the workforce restriction applies to everyone seeking new roles as core children’s workers.
  • From 1 July 2016, the workforce restriction applies to everyone currently employed as a core children’s worker.

Local authorities

The following dates apply to employees and prospective employees of local authorities:

  • From 1 September 2016, the workforce restriction applies to everyone seeking new roles as core children’s workers.
  • By 1 September 2017, the workforce restriction applies to everyone currently employed as core children’s workers.
core worker exemption female

Core worker exemption process

A panel representing the Ministries of Social Development (MSD), Health, Education, Justice, and New Zealand Police will consider your application and make a recommendation to grant or decline it.

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:

  • 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 recommendations. You will be advised how to do this if required.

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 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 are employed, or while you are already employed in a core children’s workforce role. 

To apply you complete and submit the application form and provide supporting documentation.

Make sure you read the guidance notes before you apply:

Revocation

If granted, a core worker exemption will last indefinitely, unless it’s revoked. This can happen 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.

Any questions?

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

You can also write to us at:

CWE Advisor
Ministry of Social Development
PO BOX 1556
Wellington 6140

 

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 one that is now closed.

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

Ministry of Justice

Further information for employers

Non-compliance of the following may lead to criminal prosecution:

It's an offence under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 to employ someone subject to the workforce restriction who doesn't have a core worker exemption.

Even if they get a core worker exemption, it's still up to the employer to decide if they're suitable for the role they're applying for.

Confirming a core worker exemption holder’s status

You may need to verify that a current or prospective employee or student 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 read these guidelines and then complete the enquiry form.

Core worker exemption enquiry guidance for employers (PDF 275 kB)
Core worker exemption verification enquiry form  (PDF 458 kB)

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.