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New Zealand COVID-19 Lockdown: Everything Employers Need To Know

New Zealand COVID-19 Lockdown: Everything Employers Need To Know

New Zealand entered a minimum four-week government ordered lockdown as of midnight Wednesday March 25.

The alert level 4 restrictions, the highest in the country’s history, means only businesses and services deemed to be essential, i.e. supermarkets, hospitals, pharmacies, medical clinics, banks etc, are allowed to remain open.

Some affected businesses will need to have stand down policies in place, and investigate whether an employee can work based on their own personal circumstances, according to Employsure, Australia and New Zealand’s leading workplace relations company.

“Businesses that may not know if they fall into the essential services category will need to look at their specific supply chain,” said Employsure Managing Director Ed Mallett.

“Businesses that can run as normal are encouraged, but not obligated, to force an employee to work from home,” he said. “If a business is unable to accommodate working from home, then employees are able to take annual or unpaid leave. Standing down staff without pay may be an option, following a fair and reasonable consultation process.

“If an employee is sick or is caring for someone, they may take sick leave. Once better, businesses may ask employees to provide a medical clearance.

“If they have children, managers should investigate with staff whether they will need to take some form of leave, or if they have a partner who can take care of the children instead.

“Companies who do have employees working from home should ensure they are completing the tasks required of them, look at ways to conduct team meetings, and ensure staff keep their physical distance.”

Addressing redundancies, Mr Mallett said wage and leave subsidy will need to be considered, and should be a last resort for businesses after they have exhausted all options.

“Redundancies will still need to follow a process. Businesses that used to conduct face-to-face meetings will need to have an alternative way of speaking to all staff at the same time.”

The New Zealand Government has put together a COVID-19 Wage Subsidy for employers, contractors and sole traders in all regions, which it said will support impacted businesses that face the prospect of laying off staff or reducing their hours.

Businesses that need to access the scheme must still undertake best endeavours to pay employees 80 percent of the income they were earning pre-COVID-19. If that is not possible, they must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker.

“The government is folding the previous sick leave scheme into this scheme to prevent double-dipping, and is working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19,” said Finance Minister Grant Robinson.

“The original sick leave scheme was designed when there were fewer people being placed into self-isolation, and it is no longer fit for purpose.”

Resource Hub For Employers

To help employers meet this unprecedented challenge, Employsure has built a free Resource Hub, containing workplace policies, communications, checklists and FAQs. All information is free for business owners and can be found at employsure.co.nz/coronavirus

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