Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the workplace

Guidance for employees, employers and businesses.

New Zealand is at Alert Level 1. For more information on COVID-19 and the recovery, visit the Unite against COVID-19 website (external link)

Golden rules for everyone at Alert Level 1 (external link)

General guidance for workplaces

  • Employers and employees need to work together as we unite against COVID-19, to 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 has cold or flu symptoms they should stay home, and call their doctor or contact Ministry of Health (external link)  for advice about getting tested. If a worker is sick with COVID-19, or is feeling unwell, it’s critical that the worker stays at home and recover. If a worker is waiting for COVID-19 test results, they should also self-isolate as a precaution.
  • In the absence of an agreement to alternative working arrangements, employees need to return to work if 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.
  • The Wage Subsidy helps businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 to keep employees connected to the workplace. The Wage Subsidy is being extended in a more targeted way from 10 June 2020. Firms should check if they are eligible for the Wage Subsidy Extension on the Work and Income website (external link)  
  • All businesses, including those using the Wage Subsidy and Wage Subsidy Extension, 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.
  • Businesses may also be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme to support them 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)

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 and pay when working arrangements change. The table under 'Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19 response and recovery' provides guidance to employers and employees about these entitlements.

Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19 response and recovery

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 employment matters during both the COVID-19 response and recovery periods.

We will continue updating this website with guidance and answers to frequently asked questions. Please review this content 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 employment agreements during COVID-19 response and recovery

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

Terminating employment agreements during COVID-19 response and recovery

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 response and recovery

Your rights and responsibilities regarding pay and leave during COVID-19 response and recovery.

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.

COVID-19 and the minimum wage

Guidance for employees and employers on updating payroll systems for the 1 April 2020 minimum wage increase during COVID-19 response and recovery.

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 and Wage Subsidy Extension

The Wage Subsidy helped businesses and workers as they adjusted to the initial impact of COVID-19. The Wage Subsidy Extension is available from 10 June to help in a more targeted way.

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, Wage Subsidy Extension and Leave Support Scheme: Complaints about employers

If you believe your employer is acting unlawfully in regards to the Wage Subsidy, Wage Subsidy Extension or Leave Support Scheme, 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.

COVID-19 Workers and Workplaces Assistance Fund

The Government has allocated $3 million to be awarded through a contestable fund to enable business services, unions and community providers to support workers and workplaces in response to COVID-19.

Page last revised: 11 June 2020

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