Employment law still applies to all employment relationships, regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in, including during a pandemic or a natural disaster:
- Employers must have a written employment agreement (employment contract) for every employee, and employers and employees must do what that agreement calls for.
- Employers must keep each written employment agreement up to date, including documenting in writing any changes to any terms and conditions of employment they have agreed to.
- Employers and employees must meet all employment law and any other relevant contractual conditions to change any employment arrangements.
- Employers must engage with union representatives, where a union represents the employees, before any changes are made to collective employment agreements.
- Employers must comply with all minimum employment standards and the Employment Relations Act 2000.
At each alert level change, employers and employees should first talk about whether the employee can continue to work normally and how the employee can work safely at home or at their place of work.
Resurgence Support Payment
Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) applications opens nationally from 8am on Tuesday 24 August 2021. Applications open for one month after a nationwide return to Alert Level 1.
Businesses and organisations are eligible if they experience a 30% drop in revenue over a seven day period after an alert level increase and meet other eligibility criteria. This drop is compared to a typical seven-day period in the six weeks before the increase in alert level. Seasonal businesses should show a 30% revenue drop compared with a similar week the previous year.
The decline in revenue must be a result of the specific alert level change, not just COVID-19 in general. Businesses must have been in operation for at least six months to be eligible. Charities, not-for-profit organisations, the self-employed and pre-revenue businesses, such as start-ups may also be eligible.
This payment is not a loan, so does not need to be repaid. The payment must be used to help cover business expenses such as wages and fixed costs.
There have been some recent changes to the eligibility criteria for commonly owned groups. A commonly owned group generally consists of businesses that have the same owners. Some individual businesses or organisations within a commonly owned group may now be eligible for RSP. You can find examples of commonly owned groups and more eligibility criteria for the RSP on the Inland Revenue website.
Businesses can also calculate how much they may be entitled to and how to apply. Businesses need to get their New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) to apply for RSP.
If businesses don’t meet the criteria for RSP but do have cash flow problems, Inland Revenue can help. Visit their Manage my tax page for more information.
Wage Subsidy Scheme
The Wage Subsidy payments support employers to continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by change in COVID-19 alert levels. Businesses can apply on the Work and Income website.
The Wage Subsidy is available to eligible businesses, organisations and self-employed people. Eligible employers can apply for all their employees, including salaried staff, those on wages and casual workers. Employers should take up this support to pass through to all their employees.
To reflect higher wage costs since the scheme was first used in March 2020 the payments have been increased to:
- $600 per week per full-time employee
- $359 per week per part-time employee.
Businesses don't need a NZBN to apply for the Wage Subsidy, but they can include it.
Short-Term Absence Payment
A COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available at all Alert Levels to employers to pay workers who follow public health guidance and are staying home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result. It's also available to eligible self-employed workers. To be eligible, workers need to be unable to work from home and need to miss work while waiting for the test results.
There’s a one-off payment of $350 payment for each eligible worker. This payment increases from 24 August 2021 to $359 for each eligible worker. Employers or the self-employed can apply for any worker once in any 30-day period.
Find out more, and how to apply.
Leave Support Scheme
The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme provides a payment to businesses to pay their workers who meet certain health criteria, eg they have COVID-19. This is also available if you’re self-employed.
If employees have been told by a health official to self-isolate and cannot work from home, their employers can apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.
This support will be paid as a lump sum covering two weeks (businesses can reapply if required) of $585.50 per week for full-time workers and $350 per week for part-time workers. From 24 August 2021, the payment increases to $600 per week for full-time workers and $359 per week for part-time workers.
Under changes to this scheme in 2020, businesses are no longer required to show an actual or predicted revenue drop or that their ability to support an employee was negatively impacted by COVID-19, to be eligible to access the payment.
Financial support schemes and employment law
Employment law has not changed. The financial support schemes operate alongside existing employment law. Employment obligations have not been removed or changed by employers accessing COVID-19 financial support. Employers must ensure that they are meeting their pay obligations under both employment law and the requirements they agreed to when applying for these COVID-19 financial support schemes.
Employees must be paid the higher of the amount that they are entitled to under employment law or the relevant wage subsidy requirements:
- Under employment law, employees must be paid for each and every hour that they work at their agreed wage rate. Employers and employees can temporarily or permanently agree to vary the agreed wage rate in writing and signed by both parties. Any change requires good faith consultation and written agreement signed by both parties.
- Under the wage subsidies, the employer must make their best endeavours to pay employees at least 80% of their normal salary or wages. They must pass on at least the full value of the relevant subsidy rate except where the employee’s normal wages are less than the relevant subsidy rate. In this case, the employee should be paid their normal wages and employers can use any excess subsidy to pay the wages of other affected employees.
- Employers must pay employees as if they were in continuous employment.
Complaints about employers
If employees have questions about how these payments apply to them, such as whether the employer has applied for any scheme or when and how much they will receive, employees should contact their employer in the first instance.
If talking to employers doesn’t resolve the problem, or employees think their employer has acted unlawfully, employees can make a complaint with us.
COVID-19 financial support tool
There are other financial support available to both individuals and businesses. Find out more on the website covid19.govt.nz