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COVID-19 and the workplace

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

People who test positive for COVID-19 are recommended to isolate for five days and stay home until they have recovered.

If you have COVID-19 - Unite Against COVID-19 (external link)

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.

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, dependant 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.

Sick leave

An employer may ask an employee for proof of sickness. Anyone who reports a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result, or has had a positive PCR 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.

Report your COVID-19 test result — Unite against COVID-19 (external link)

Requirements for medical examination for sick leave

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, such as testing or the use of masks. When making or changing any COVID-19 policy, employers are recommended to consult with employees and unions.

Workplace policies

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.

Worker engagement and participation - WorkSafe New Zealand (external link)

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.

COVID-19 health and safety guidance for workplaces — WorkSafe New Zealand (external link)

Health and safety rights and obligations — WorkSafe New Zealand (external link)

Long COVID

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 entitlements

Medical incapacity

Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19

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

Vaccines and the workplace

Guidance for employees and employers on COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the workplace.

Frequently asked questions: COVID-19 and the workplace

Answers to questions workers may have about COVID-19.

Addressing health and safety concerns

Guidance for workers and businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modifying employment agreements because of COVID-19

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

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.

Temporary changes to parental leave law due to COVID-19

Law changes allowed some workers on parental leave to temporarily go back to work without losing their entitlements up to 20 January 2023.

Page last revised: 14 August 2023

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