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Working paper

The Effect of Trial Periods in Employment on Firm Hiring Behaviour (WP 16/03)

Issue date: 
Friday, 17 June 2016
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Publication category: 
JEL classification: 
J08 - Labor Economics Policies
J63 - Labor Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
J64 - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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An amendment to legislation in 2009 enabled New Zealand firms with fewer than 20 employees to hire new workers on trial periods. The scheme was subsequently extended to employers of all sizes.


An amendment to legislation in 2009 enabled New Zealand firms with fewer than 20 employees to hire new workers on trial periods. The scheme was subsequently extended to employers of all sizes. The policy was intended to encourage firms to take on more employees, and particularly more disadvantaged job seekers, by reducing the risk associated with hiring an unknown worker. We use unit record linked employer-employee data and the staggered introduction of the policy for firms of different sizes to assess the policy effect on firm hiring behaviour. We find no evidence that the policy affected the number of hires by firms on average, either overall or into employment that lasted beyond the trial period. We also do not find an effect on hiring of disadvantaged jobseekers. However, our results suggest that the policy increased hiring in industries with high use of trial periods by 10.3 percent.


We would like to thank Sylvia Dixon, Harold Cuffe, Lynda Sanderson, Bettina Schaer, Steve Stillman, and seminar participants at NZAE 2015, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and MBIE for helpful comments and discussion. We are also grateful to Dave Maré for his expertise and help with the data, and to Justine Cannon and Chris Barnett of MBIE for their help with details of the legislation. Any remaining errors are the authors’ own. This research is funded by the New Zealand Treasury.


The results in this paper are not official statistics, they have been created for research purposes from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) managed by Statistics New Zealand. The opinions, findings, recommendations and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the authors, not Statistics New Zealand, the Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or Motu Economy & Public Policy Research.

Access to the anonymised data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand in accordance with security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975. Only people authorised by the Statistics Act 1975 are allowed to see data about a particular person, household, business or organisation and the results in this paper have been confidentialised to protect these groups from identification. Careful consideration has been given to the privacy, security and confidentiality issues associated with using administrative and survey data in the IDI. Further detail can be found in the privacy impact assessment for the IDI available from

The results are based in part on tax data supplied by Inland Revenue to Statistics New Zealand under the Tax Administration Act 1994. This tax data must be used only for statistical purposes, and no individual information may be published or disclosed in any other form, or provided to Inland Revenue for administrative or regulatory purposes. Any person who has had access to the unit-record data has certified that they have been shown, have read, and have understood section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994, which relates to secrecy. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the IDI for statistical purposes, and is not related to the data’s ability to support Inland Revenue’s core operational requirements.

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Last updated: 
Tuesday, 21 June 2016