Hope you are all doing well in Level 4. Some subscribers will be operating under Level 4 conditions, others may have some staff working from home and others will be closed. The HealthyPractice team are working from home. If you have questions, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0800 800 627.
The uncertainty of the situation will no doubt have you considering options, especially if the current lockdown is extended.
The basic employment principles continue to apply during lockdowns. The employer obligation is to pay staff for their contracted hours. If you find yourself in the position that you may need to reduce hours or pay, then you must put a proposal to staff and seek their agreement to the changes.
The Government has announced financial support packages for businesses affected by the lockdown including:
- Resurgence Support Payment
The Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) has been reintroduced and you may be eligible for this – see Eligibility for the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) (ird.govt.nz)
- The Wage Subsidy
The Wage Subsidy is available to businesses impacted by the lockdown, see: COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 applications open - Work and Income, with your employer obligations detailed at: Your obligations for COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 - Work and Income. The Wage Subsidy includes a requirement that you “use the subsidy to pay the ordinary wages and salary of the named employees, in accordance with their employment agreements and statutory obligations, for the period you receive the subsidy”. In good faith you can agree with staff to work reduced hours and be paid accordingly, bearing in mind that the wage subsidy requires you to “use your best endeavours to pay at least 80 per cent of each named employee's ordinary wages or salary”.
- The Covid Leave support scheme
This is to cover employers, self-employed people to help pay employees who need to self-isolate and can’t work from home https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/about-work-and-income/news/2020/covid-19-financial-support-for-businesses.html
- Covid-19 short-term absence payment
Available for people who cannot work from home and need to miss work while staying at home waiting for Covid-19 test results https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/about-work-and-income/news/2020/covid-19-financial-support-for-businesses.html
Other useful information and links:
At this stage only workers in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, and government agencies at the border are subject to the mandatory vaccination Health Order that came into effect on the 1st May. In all other respects employment law continues to apply. If work cannot be done by unvaccinated workers – see Employment NZ information at https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/other-types-of-leave/coronavirus-workplace/covid-19-vaccination-and-employment/#scrollto-employment-law-continues-to-apply-if-work-cannot-be-done-by-unvaccinated-employees
Although there is increased health and safety risk in the health sector, especially with front line providers and staff, it still needs to be considered on a case by case basis. The Delta variant could be a ‘game changer’ as far as managing the health and safety risk but until there is a significant ‘test case’ that can be applied in principle across a sector, or Health Orders are more broadly introduced, all current employment principles apply. Check with your professional body for specific clinical guidelines.
- Annual leave during lockdown
Annual leave needs to be requested and agreed to, and only in exceptional circumstances can you instruct an employee to take leave, see Employment NZ’s website at: https://www.employment.govt.nz/about/news-and-updates/can-employers-make-employees-take-leave-during-alert-levels-3-and-4/
- Health & Safety
Employer obligations around health and safety also continue to apply for all workers including contractors, and you can download a policy template for Covid-19 health and safety at the bottom of our HealthyPractice page at https://www.healthypractice.co.nz/members/legal-and-risk/risk-management/pandemic-planning/novel-coronavirus/
- Supporting mental health
See our HealthyPractice content at https://www.healthypractice.co.nz/members/human-resources/leave/sick-leave/managing-mental-health-issues-workplace/
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