A person can join KiwiSaver if they are a New Zealand citizen, or entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely, and living or normally living in New Zealand (with some exceptions), and below the age of eligibility for NZ Super (currently 65).
It sounds like your wife's employer is making too much of a distinction between a residence visa and a permanent residence visa. What's the difference?
According to the Immigration New Zealand website, "Both of these visas allow you the same privilege of living permanently in New Zealand, but they provide you with different travel conditions.
Your resident visa will allow you to travel in and out of New Zealand (as a resident) for a specified period of time only - usually 24 months."
The key information for your wife is that her residence visa does allow her the privilege of living permanently in New Zealand and she is therefore entitled to sign up to KiwiSaver and receive all the benefits including employer contributions and annual member tax credits.
Your wife's employer may genuinely believe that the nature of her visa does not entitle her to join KiwiSaver, or they may be among those employers who regard KiwiSaver as an unwelcome additional cost rather than an opportunity to encourage long-term saving and greater financial security for their staff.
Inland Revenue is the overall administrator of the KiwiSaver Scheme for all members.
I asked Inland Revenue what advice they could offer in this situation.
A spokesman said: "In the circumstances outlined, we would need to get a direct complaint from the employee if she feels her employer is not meeting their obligations to enrol her in KiwiSaver - see http://www.kiwisaver.govt.nz/contact/#write for ways to contact us. There is not a formalised or regular process for this type of situation. She would also need to apply to Inland Revenue for any backdated compulsory employer contributions. Her circumstances would be considered to see if she meets the criteria."
Would she like to recover the three months of missed employer contributions?
Depending on what she earns, this could be in the region of $250 to $450. Employees tread a fine line between upholding their rights, and being on good terms with their employer.
If your wife would prefer not to lay a complaint, she can join KiwiSaver directly through a fund manager or her bank and Inland Revenue will in due course send a notice to her employer to start making deductions.
Employers who are negative about KiwiSaver may not realise the benefits to their employees in being members.
These benefits can include greater motivation and productivity at work. Many employers could do more to encourage their workers into joining KiwiSaver.
- Shelley Hanna is an Authorised Financial Adviser FSP12241. Her free disclosure statement is available on request by calling 06 870 3838 or go to www.peak.net.nz. The information in this article is general and is not personalised. Send your KiwiSaver questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.