Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the workplace

Guidance for employees, employers and businesses.

For information on what alert level New Zealand is currently at, and general guidance for different alert levels, you can visit the COVID-19 website (external link)

Visit the Business.govt.nz and WorkSafe websites for information on how to determine whether your business premises can open under each Alert Level.

General guidance for workplaces

  • Employers and employees need to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, protect New Zealand and keep each other safe.
  • This means that normal obligations to keep in regular contact and to act in good faith are more important than ever. This is one way employers and employees can be kind to one another.
  • Regular employment law applies to all employment relationships – regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in. This includes anything that has been agreed to in an employment agreement.
  • If a worker is sick with COVID-19, or required to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, the first consideration for an employer should be to look after people, contain COVID-19 and protect public health.
  • Employers should not require or knowingly allow workers to come to a workplace when they are sick with COVID-19 or required to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19. If they do, they are likely to be in breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • Under Alert Level 2, most businesses can operate if they can do so safely. Alternative ways of working are still encouraged where possible, for example, employers and employees may agree to work from home (and be paid normally). In the absence of an agreement to alternative working arrangements, employees need to return to work if it is safe to do so and there is no reason the employee needs to stay away from work under public health guidance (external link)
  • All workplaces must operate safely – complying with the alert level settings, meeting appropriate public health requirements, and fulfilling their other health and safety obligations.  Employers and employees need to discuss, in good faith, any changes in work arrangements, leave and pay, or health and safety measures.
  • Businesses may be eligible for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy scheme. The Wage Subsidy helps businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 to keep employees connected to the workplace. All businesses, including those using the Wage Subsidy Scheme, must follow legal requirements when making decisions about hours of work, rate of pay, or leave. They cannot unlawfully require or compel employees to use their leave entitlements. Firms should check if they are eligible at the Work and Income website (external link)
  • Businesses may also be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, to support businesses to pay their employees who should not come into work due to being sick with COVID-19, a close contact of an infected person, or at higher risk of severe illness where the employee can't work from home. Firms should check if they are eligible at the Work and Income website (external link) (external link)

It can be difficult to navigate a complex and rapidly-changing situation such as the current one. One of the key challenges is working out employee entitlements to leave, where the worker cannot go to the workplace or work from home. The table under 'Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19' provides guidance to employers and employees about these entitlements.

Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19

This is a unique situation that continues to change rapidly. We recognise that it raises a number of questions and concerns for people, especially relating to employment. The links below provide up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 employment matters.

We will continue updating this website with guidance and answers to frequently asked questions. Please review this content and the COVID-19 website before contacting us. We want to assure you that responding to the queries we receive is one of our highest priorities, however there will be a delay in our response times as we work through each query.

Modifying employee agreements during COVID-19

Find out about options to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Terminating employment agreements because of COVID-19

There are good faith processes to follow for workplace change, and redundancy should only be considered if no suitable alternative arrangements have been found.

Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19

Your rights and responsibilities regarding pay and leave during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary changes to parental leave law due to COVID-19

These law changes allow some workers on parental leave to temporarily go back to work without losing their entitlements.

Addressing health and safety concerns

Guidance for workers and businesses operating during the different COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions.

COVID-19 and the minimum wage

Guidance for employees and employers on the 1 April 2020 minimum wage increase during all Alert Levels.

COVID-19: Guidance for payroll professionals

This page provides a set of key messages for payroll professionals around what employment law looks like in the COVID-19 environment to help answer any questions that are presenting.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Wage Subsidy Scheme has been developed to help businesses and affected workers in the short-term, as they adjust to the initial impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

Financial support for people in situations where they need to stay away from work and cannot work from home.

Wage Subsidy and Leave Support Schemes: Complaints about employers

If you believe your employer is acting unlawfully in regards to the Wage Subsidy or Leave Support Schemes, here are the steps to resolve your concerns or make a complaint.

Employment New Zealand's approach to COVID-19

Employment New Zealand is the labour market regulator. This page sets out its approach, and what it expects of workplaces, in relation to COVID-19.

Page last revised: 28 May 2020

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