As everyone is aware, Auckland returned to Level 3 at 6:00 am on Sunday morning, with the rest of the country returning to Level 2. At this stage, New Zealand will remain at these levels until 6:00 am on Sunday, 7 March 2021.
There are a couple of things to keep front of mind:
Arrangements for employees who can work from home
Remember you retain all usual employment and health and safety obligations. It's a good idea to check in to make sure people have somewhere to work and are doing ok. Hopefully this is just a matter of rolling out the support put in place during previous lockdowns.
Arrangements for employees who cannot work from home
As with previous lockdowns, care needs to be taken with regard to arrangements for employees who cannot work from home. Normal employment obligations continue to apply (including in relation to payments and leave). This means that unless you have reached agreement with relevant employees (either in employment agreements or on an ad hoc basis), they should continue to receive their normal pay. We now have some guidance from the Employment Relations Authority on this point (Raggett v Eastern Bays Hospice Trust).
In any event, the key point is that good faith obligations continue to apply (including for employers who are eligible for financial support from the government).
For those businesses who can operate at Level 3
For those businesses who are deemed essential and are therefore operating in Auckland during Level 3, it is imperative that QR Codes and an alternative contact tracing system is used. Staff need to remain 1 metre apart at all times where practicable, and business with customers must be done contactlessly. Further information about your obligations can be found here
There are two schemes in place offering financial support from the government.
First, the Resurgence Wage Subsidy. Further information is to be released today, but details announced so far have confirmed that this wage subsidy will be to businesses that have experienced a drop in revenue due to Sunday's shift in alert levels. More details around the criteria are expected to be announced this afternoon.
Second, the Short Term Absence Payment is available for businesses to pay workers who are waiting for a COVID-19 test result but cannot work from home. The person must have been tested as a result of meeting Ministry of Health requirements. At the moment this will be most relevant to employers of essential workers in Auckland, and for businesses outside of Auckland.
Information about each type of financial support can be found here
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.