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Coronavirus: FAQs And Resource Hub For Employers

Published March 16, 2020 (last updated December 10, 2020) Author: Employsure
coronavirus faqs answered for employers

5 October Update 

The New Zealand Government has announced changes to the Alert Levels as follows:

  • Auckland will move down from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1 from 11:59pm, Wednesday 7 October 2020 until further notice.
  • The rest of New Zealand will remain in Alert Level 1 until further notice.
  • Details regarding the Alert Level restrictions can be found here.

Leave Support Scheme

Effective as of midday, 28 September 2020:

  • The Leave support scheme will continue to be available for Employers of those who are not able to work due to COVID-19 and are not able to work from home
  • The eligibility criteria has been updated with expanded eligibility criteria for employees who have been told to self-isolate
  • The payment duration has changed from four weeks to two weeks, although employers can reapply every two weeks for the same employee if they continue to meet the eligibility criteria

For more information, download our COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme guide here or to apply for the Leave Support Scheme, please visit Work and Income’s website here.

Extended Wage Subsidy and Resurgence Wage Subsidy

Applications for the Extended Wage Subsidy and Resurgence Wage Subsidy have now closed.

Employers can still apply for the Leave Support Scheme for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19.

FREE Coronavirus Documents for Employers

These resources have been developed to assist you with the current Alert Level, as well as in the case of any future changes. Please note that not all restrictions outlined in the documents will apply, depending on the current Alert Level:

Exclusive Webinars – Navigating The Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus: FAQ and Resource Hub For Employers

In our free webinars, specialists from Employsure offer you a clear path in order to navigate the days, weeks and months ahead during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

A must watch event for any employer, our webinar topics continually change with the latest information. Keep tuning in.

To find a register, visit here.

What Do the Alert Levels Mean?

New Zealand has a four-level alert system to manage and minimise the risk of COVID-19 (the “Coronavirus”). Each alert level provides public health, social measures and guidance for businesses.

Please be aware that the information below is general advice based on the public information available at the time of publication. Alert levels and restrictions can change quickly, so always review the details of the latest government advice. The Government has provided detailed information on alert levels and what they mean for people and businesses here.

Alert Level 1

Alert Level 1 is the least restrictive. New Zealanders are asked to prepare in case the alert level changes, and to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There is no requirement for physical distancing and no size limits to gatherings.

It remains mandatory for businesses to display NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters.

Alert Level 2

Most businesses can operate in Alert Level 2, provided they can do so safely and meet public health requirements, including physical distancing and contact tracing.

Businesses are encouraged to use alternative ways of working if possible.

Close contact services can operate if they meet public health measures including robust record keeping, good hygiene practices and minimised contact to the extent possible. If a workplace cannot meet these measures it cannot open its physical premises.

At all times when outside the home, everyone under Alert Level 2 is required to practice good hygiene, monitor their health, track their movements and wear face coverings if they can.

From 11.59pm, Sunday, 30 August 2020 face coverings are mandatory on public transport (including buses, trains, ferries, planes) in all places during Alert Level 2 or above (not a particular type of mask, can be a face covering).  Passengers in Ubers and taxis will not be required to wear face-coverings, although the drivers will be.  Children under 12, those in school buses, inter-island ferries and charter buses are also exempt.  Exemptions will also be made for those with a disability or condition that makes wearing a mask unsuitable.

There will be restrictions on gathering sizes and these may vary depending on the region or if there is a localised outbreak.

Alert Level 3

Not all businesses are able to open under Alert Level 3. Essential services including healthcare, justice services and businesses providing necessities are able to open.

Non-essential workplaces can only open if:

  • workers cannot work from home, and
  • workplaces are operating safely, and
  • customers are not allowed on premises, and
  • businesses can trade without physical contact with customers (e.g. through phone/online orders, delivery, pick-up and drive-through).

Physical distancing of 2 metres outside the home is encouraged – this does not apply to emergency and frontline public services (e.g. healthcare). It is highly recommended that everyone wear face coverings when out and about. Gatherings of up to 10 people can continue, but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures should be maintained.

People at high risk of severe illness such as the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home.

Alert Level 4

Only essential services are able to open under Alert Level 4 (eg. Supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics and petrol stations).

People are instructed to stay at home other than for essential personal movement. All gatherings are cancelled and all public venues closed.

What Do I Need To Do From A Health And Safety Perspective?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has the primary duty of care to ensure that the health and safety of workers and others are not put at risk.

What you need to do from a health and safety perspective will depend on your location, industry and if you are operating.

However, no matter what, all businesses should:

  • Follow the Ministry of Health’s advice
  • Create a COVID Safe Plan. Identify any risks associated with the Coronavirus, implement any changes to controls that allow you to comply with specific Alert Level restrictions and monitor their effectiveness
  • Follow any industry-specific guidance
  • Follow all normal health and safety obligations

Remember that your health and safety obligations also extend to other people on your premises. Consider any additional personal protective equipment (PPE) which will be required in your workplace, such as face coverings. Your PPE policy should take into account anyone on-site including employees, customers or independent contractors.

Keep in mind that if an employee is working from home, the employer’s health and safety obligations extend to that part of the home as it is considered a workplace.

What Do I Need To Do From An Employment Relations Perspective?

An employer must meet their employment obligations, which includes complying with agreements, policies and employment standards.

If you are not able to operate you have an obligation to consult with workers regarding alternatives such as working from home, reduced hours or leave. If any changes to employment terms and conditions (such as pay or hours) need to occur, these should happen after a fair and reasonable consultation process, with any agreed changes recorded in writing. If you are making changes to some employees and not others, make the decision based on objective selection criteria.

The specific process to follow will depend on the type of change and the individual employees so contact an Employment Relations specialist for specific guidance and if you are a client, contact the Advice Team.

If your employees are working from home, ensure you have appropriate policies. Make sure you have up to date contact details for all employees and keep in contact with them.

How Do I Pay My Employees?

This will depend on if your employees are currently working, or if they themselves are unable to work.

If your employees are ready, willing and able to work, the general position is that you must pay them their normal wage or salary even if you can’t provide them with work. If you wish to make changes:

  • Discuss alternatives and reach an agreement with employees (for example reduced hours, leave without pay or taking annual leave)
  • Follow restructure processes to make changes due to financial or operational reasons
  • Direct employees to take entitled annual leave after consulting with them

If an employee is not able to attend work, discuss any availability of sick leave, annual leave, special leave or leave without pay.

The above options may require a process in order to carry them out safely, so reach out to an Employment Relations specialist for specific guidance and documentation support and if you are a client, contact the Advice Team.

Official Government Sources

Make sure you’re getting only correct, official health and travel from Government sources. Resources are listed below:

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