COVID-19- key considerations for employers during alert level 4?

In addition to the more well-known financial support systems in place such as the Wage Subsidy and Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) – COVID-19 FAQ for Employers - Holland Beckett Law (hobec.co.nz), there are other avenues available to assist employers to pay employees who are impacted by COVID-19. This includes providing free childcare for essential workers who qualify to enable them to attend work.

COVID-19 Short Term Absence Payment

What is it? A one-off payment to help employers to keep paying an employee who needs to be away from the workplace (in accordance with public health guidance) to await a COVID-19 test result, and cannot work from home. This extends to circumstances where the employee is the parent or caregiver of a dependant who is staying home awaiting a COVID-19 test, or where the employee is a household member or secondary contact of a close contact, and the employee has been advised to stay at home while awaiting the close contact’s COVID-19 test results.

How much do employers receive? Employers will receive $359 per eligible employee. Employers cannot apply twice for the same employee in that 30 day period.

Who is not eligible? Those involved in routine surveillance testing who have not been notified to stay home, returning international air crew, those who are currently overseas, those who are in managed isolation facilities, or those who are employees of a State Sector organisation or State Owned Enterprise (unless granted an exception).

How are staff paid? If the employee is taking sick leave during this time, the payment will need to be used to pay the worker their sick leave entitlements. If the employee has used up all of their sick leave, the employer should attempt to pay the employee as if they had been working that day, or otherwise pay them at least the full amount of the payment ($359) while they are awaiting their test results. If the employee’s usual wages are less than the payment, they need to be paid their usual wages.

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

What is it? A weekly payment to help employees who are required to self-isolate (in accordance with public health guidance) and cannot work from home. Employees must meet one of the following criteria:

  • They have COVID-19 and have been told to isolate until advised otherwise;
  • They are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 and have been told to self-isolate through the contact tracing process;
  • They are a parent or caregiver of someone who has been told to self-isolate through the contact tracing process;
  • They have been directed to self-isolate by a Medical Officer of Health (in the Bay of Plenty region, these are Dr Jim Miller, Dr Neil de Wet, and Dr Phil Shoemack);
  • They are considered ‘higher risk’ if they contract COVID-19 and have been told by a medical practitioner to self-isolate while there is community transmission; or
  • They have household members who are considered ‘higher risk’ if they contract COVID-19 and a medical practitioner has told them to self-isolate.

How much do employers receive? Employers will receive $600 per week for full-time employees, and $359 per week for part-time employees. This will be paid in a lump sum, and covers a period of two weeks from the date that an application is submitted. Employers cannot apply for less than two weeks. If an employee returns to work in less than two weeks, the remaining amount can be used to pay for other employees who are receiving less than their usual wages due to COVID-19. The employer is able to keep reapplying for the payment as long as the criteria is met.

Who is not eligible? Those who are household members or secondary contacts of a close contact, casual contacts, those who have not been directed to self-isolate through the contacting tracing process, those involved in routine surveillance testing who have not been notified to stay home, returning international air crew, those who are currently overseas, those who are in managed isolation facilities, or those who cannot work because they have care of dependants and have been unable to access care for those dependants and those who are employees of a State Sector organisation or State Owned Enterprise (unless granted an exception).

How are staff paid? The employer must use their best efforts to pay the employee at least 80% of their normal pay (including from the payment received), or otherwise pay them at least the full leave support payment rate. If the employee’s usual wages are less than the payment, they need to be paid their usual wages.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is not possible to receive more than one COVID-19 related payment for the same employee (i.e. the employer cannot receive both the Short-Term Absence Payment and the Leave Support payment).

Childcare Assistance for Essential Workers

From 23 August 2021, free childcare will be available for essential workers who do not have care in place for their child or children aged up to 13 years old. Access to the scheme is restricted to those who are working in essential businesses under Alert level 4, including (but not limited to) supermarkets, residential care services, passenger services and health services, as well as fire and emergency and border workers. Funding is available where there is no other adult in the worker’s household that can care for the child or children.

The above is general information. If you have specific questions or require advice, please contact one of our Employment Law team.

Abigail is a solicitor in Holland Beckett Law’s litigation team, and advises her clients on all aspects of employment, family and civil litigation matters.