At 11:59pm on Tuesday, 17 August 2021, New Zealand moved to alert level 4 for at least three days, with Auckland and Coromandel in lockdown for at least seven days.
You must close your business to the public unless you are an “alert level 4 business or service”. Information about businesses that are allowed to operate can be found here and here. Employees who can work from home can continue to work during alert level 4.
Employment law applies during a lockdown
This is not our first lockdown, and we have the benefit of recent Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court decisions about employment issues during COVID-19.
The key principles from those decisions are:
- Employment law still applies during a pandemic.
- If an employee is ready, willing, and able to work, but does not work because the employer cannot provide work, then the employee is entitled to be paid.
- An employer cannot reduce an employee’s pay or hours of work without the employee’s agreement (unless the employer restructures).
- The minimum wage applies when work is performed.
Support is available
There are four government support programmes to assist businesses affected by COVID-19 with their employment costs:
- COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 will be open for applications from 9am on Friday, 20 August 2021. The eligibility criteria and declaration have not yet been released. Businesses and self-employed people must expect a 40% drop in revenue to be eligible to receive the wage subsidy. The amount of the payments will be $600 per week for each fulltime employee and $359 per week for each part-time employee.
- COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment is available to help with wages and fixed costs for businesses who are directly affected by an increase to Alert Level 2 or higher for a week or more. To be eligible, your business must have experienced at least a 30% drop in revenue, or a 30% reduction in capital-raising ability, over a 7-day period, due to the alert level increase.
- COVID-19 Short Term Absence Payment is available if an employee needs to stay at home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result and cannot work from home.
- COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is available if an employee has been asked to self-isolate and cannot work from home.
Conditions apply to each of these schemes, and businesses must complete a declaration to receive payments. The conditions and declarations are legally binding, so should be carefully considered before applying for support.
In addition, the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme and Business Debt Hibernation Scheme are available to support businesses.
Information about these support programmes can be found here.
Look after your team (and yourself)
The stress, uncertainty and social isolation of lockdown affects everyone differently.
Make time to connect with your people and check in on their wellbeing. Ask them, “how is your haoura?” Make sure they are getting regular breaks and opportunities for rest. The Ministry of Health has compiled a list of self-help tools and apps, and other resources, which you can find here.