COVID-19 Business Support
The Government has announced a package to support New Zealanders and their jobs from the impact of COVID-19. This includes a leave payment scheme and wage subsidy.
The COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme is designed to help people who should self-isolate, but otherwise might be deterred because of financial reasons. The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme has been developed to help businesses and affected workers in the short-term, as they adjust to the initial impact of COVID-19.
Guidance for the workplace
We all need to do what we can to contain COVID-19 and protect public health in New Zealand, by supporting workers to protect and, where necessary, isolate themselves from others.
Employers should ask workers whether they are intending to go overseas on leave and workers should tell employers if they plan to do so. Employers and workers should take into account current government advice that New Zealanders should avoid all non-essential travel overseas. They should also consider that workers may also be caught in other countries’ travel restrictions. For workers planning to holiday in New Zealand, leave can proceed as planned.
- Employers must take seriously and manage the health risks to workers and other people affected in the workplace and treat employees in good faith. Employers should plan ahead and work with workers and unions for likely scenarios of COVID-19.
- If a worker is sick with COVID-19, or required to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, the first consideration for an employer should be to look after people, contain COVID-19 and protect public health.
- Employers should not require or knowingly allow workers to come to a workplace when they are sick with COVID-19 or required to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19. If they do, they are likely to be in breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
- Employers and workers should consider whether working from home is practicable during the self-isolation period. In that case, the worker would be paid normally.
- If an employer requires an employee not to come to a workplace, an employee should be paid. Paid sick leave (and anticipated sick leave) may be used if the person is sick or needs to care for a sick dependent. If paid sick leave is not available, paid special leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be used by agreement between the employer and the employee.
- If an employee, who is required to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, can’t practicably work from home, then special paid leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be considered (such as paid sick leave) and used by agreement between the employer and the employee. The COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme is available to support employers to pay employees in these circumstances. All workers will be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme.
- Where a worker has not yet left New Zealand, but intends to do so, an employer may advise the worker that if they cannot agree how to manage the self-isolation period, then this will become unpaid leave. An employer may decline a new leave request for business reasons, where it is reasonable to do so.
- Contractor pay and leave is not covered by this guidance. Employers and contractors can agree to any payment arrangements they wish to. Contractors and the self-employed are eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme.
Employment situations that may take place
- Worker is sick with COVID-19 (as identified by Ministry of Health guidelines)
- Employees who have not yet left New Zealand (as at 15 March 2020)
- Worker required to self-isolate under public health guidance for COVID-19 (though may not be sick)
- Worker believes they are at risk of spreading COVID-19 (though is not required to self-isolate under health guidance for COVID-19)
- Worker is concerned that attending their workplace places them at risk of exposure to COVID-19
For any further questions about employment rights and responsibilities, contact Employment New Zealand.