COVID-19 - Update

Alert Level 2 Rules - Businesses are still subject to requirements directed at ensuring that COVID-19 is not spread further. 

  • All businesses can operate if they can do so safely. 

  • Alternative ways of working are to still be encouraged where possible. This may include flexible hours/working from home).
  • Businesses must talk with their employees and contractors to identify risks and ways to manage them.
  • Businesses must ask everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from their premises.
  • Workers at a business are to remain one metre away from each other.  In all other cases, such as with clients/customers visiting a work premises, the rule is two metres.  These rules are to be complied with “to the greatest extent practicable", except where people are part of “a gathering of friends and whanau”.
  • Businesses must keep contact tracing records of anyone who enters the workplace or uses its services. Retail businesses are not required to keep contact tracing records for customers. 

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing necessarily involves the collection of personal information.  Under the Privacy Act 1993:

  • The scope of information being collected must be limited to what is necessary for COVID-19 contact tracing and cannot be used later for alternative purposes (e.g. marketing).
  • The person from whom you are collecting the information must be made aware, so far as reasonable in the circumstances:
    1. The purpose for which the information is being collected;
    2. The intended recipients of this information;
    3. The name and address of the business that is collecting the information;
    4. The particular law that requires the collection of information;
    5. The consequences of the information not being provided (e.g. refused entry); and
    6. How the information can be accessed or corrected by the person giving the information.
  • The information must be kept secure and not be kept for longer than is necessary.  Compliance with this obligation should be considered when using online methods of collection facilitated by another business.

Wage Subsidy Extension

The Government has announced that from 10 June 2020, employers can apply for an eight-week wage subsidy extension, commencing once their wage subsidy has ended.  Key points at this stage are:

  • To be eligible for the extension, an employer must have experienced at least a 50% loss in revenue for the 30 days preceding the application for extension, compared to the closest period last year
  • The same requirements as the wage subsidy scheme are expected to apply, including that employers must:
    1. Ensure named employees are paid at least the amount of the subsidy;
    2. Retain those employees for the duration of the subsidy;
    3. Make best endeavours to pay the employees at least 80% of their normal pay; and
    4. Take active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 to the employer’s business.

You may be an employer who has given extended notice to redundant employees, which will expire at the end of the 12-week subsidy.  You should seek advice when details of the new subsidy are announced as to whether this will impact those arrangements.

Wage Subsidy in Alert Level 2

With many employees returning to work, and businesses still relying on the wage subsidy to help cover the costs of wages, care needs to be taken that statutory minimum and contractual entitlements are being complied with. 

Consider whether earlier variation agreements are still applicable, or new variation agreements need to be entered into to address any altered or reduced levels of hours of work and pay, whether on a temporary or permanent basis.

Some businesses are finding that employees do not want to return to work, even when there is now work to do and technically nothing is stopping them.  This is frustrating for employers and we recommend you seek employment advice. 

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