COVID-19 in the workplace

Guidance for employees, employers and businesses around COVID-19 and the workplace.

Health New Zealand recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 isolate for at least 5 days.

There is no legal requirement for people to isolate when they test positive for COVID-19. However, employers should support employees to isolate in line with health guidance. Asking a worker to come to work while sick could put the health of other workers at risk, and result in further disruption. Safety risks could also be created depending on the type of work, for example, if a worker is not well enough to safely operate equipment, heavy machinery, or vehicles.

Employees are encouraged to tell their employers if they test positive for COVID-19 and are isolating as a result. Some employees may be able to work from home while isolating if they do not feel unwell.

If you have COVID-19 – Health Information and Services(external link)

Sick leave

Employees who are sick with COVID-19 can use their sick leave while they isolate. They can also use sick leave to care for their spouse, partner, dependent child, or other person who depends on them if they are sick with COVID-19.

If an employee does not have any sick leave left, or is not yet entitled to sick leave, an employer could allow them to take sick leave in advance or provide paid special leave. Other options are that an employer and employee may agree other leave, such as annual leave or unpaid leave, is taken.

An employer may ask an employee for proof of sickness. Anyone who reports a positive RAT (rapid antigen test) result, or has had a positive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, will receive a confirmation text message from Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand. These confirmation text messages are reliable proof of a person having COVID-19.

Sick leave

Requirements for medical examination for sick leave

If you have COVID-19 – Health Information and Services(external link)

Previous Leave Support Scheme

The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme (then called 'COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support Scheme') helped employers and self-employed people, pay employees who had to self-isolate due to COVID-19. It was available between 6 April 2020 and 15 August 2023.


Workplace policies

Employers may make or change workplace policies regarding COVID-19. These could include precautions when an employee who has just had COVID-19 returns to the workplace, for example, testing or the use of masks. We recommend employers making or changing any COVID-19 policy consult with employees and unions.

Health and safety laws require businesses to engage with workers and their representatives on matters that could affect health and safety. Businesses must also have clear, effective and ongoing ways for workers to raise concerns or suggest improvements on a day-to-day basis.

If employees are concerned that being in the workplace with someone who has COVID-19 may harm them, they can talk to their employer, health and safety representative, or union representative.

A worker has the right to cease or refuse to carry out work if they believe it will expose them to a serious risk to their health arising from immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. The worker must notify the business and may only continue to cease or refuse to carry out work if they reasonably believe that risk still remains.

Whether getting COVID-19 is a 'serious' risk to a worker’s health may depend on things like the worker’s personal circumstances, the type of work they do and their working arrangements.

Workplace policies

Worker engagement and participation – WorkSafe (external link)

COVID-19 health and safety guidance for workplaces – WorkSafe(external link)

Health and safety rights and obligations – WorkSafe(external link)


Most people with COVID-19 recover completely and return to normal health. However, there are some people who may have signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 (4 weeks from the initial infection), which is known as ‘long COVID’.

Long COVID – Ministry of Health(external link)

MBIE advises employers to treat any cases of long COVID amongst their employees in the same way they would respond to any employee with a long-term illness. We encourage employers and employees to consult their employment agreement, discuss, and seek to reach agreement in good faith on what approach will be taken. For more guidance see:

Sick leave

Medical incapacity

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