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Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19

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

From 15 August 2023, there is no longer a legal requirement to isolate when someone tests positive with COVID-19. Read COVID-19 and the workplace for current information.

This page sets out the guidance that was used to support employees and employers between 6 April 2020 and 15 August 2023 and is here as a historical record only.

Regular employment law applied to all employment relationships. This included:

  • having a written employment agreement for every employee, and doing what that agreement requires 
  • keeping each written employment agreement up to date, including documenting any changes that affect rates of pay or hours worked 
  • meeting legislative and any relevant contractual requirements for changing employment arrangements    
  • complying with all minimum standards legislation and with the Employment Relations Act 2000. 

If a workplace was impacted by COVID-19, employers and employees were encouraged to discuss whether the employee could work normally, how much work was available, and how to work safely at home or at their usual place of work.

If the employee could not work normally (e.g. their normal number of hours), the employer and employee were encouraged to discuss what options are available. This page outlines some of those options. 

Employee entitlements

One of the key challenges was working out employee entitlements to leave when the worker could not go to the workplace or work from home.

Employers should not have required or knowingly allowed workers to come to a workplace when they were sick with COVID-19. If they did, they were likely to be in breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

If you were required to self-isolate because you tested positive for COVID-19, you would have been sent a text message from the Ministry of Health's official 2328 or 2648 number. You could show this text message to your employer as proof of your requirement to isolate. We encouraged employers to accept this as sufficient evidence for sick leave purposes, and not request further medical certificates.

If you tested positive for COVID-19, you could return to the workplace after 7 days if you did not have symptoms. You were not required to test in order to leave isolation. However, your employer may have put in place a policy requiring a negative test before you returned to the workplace – normal consultation requirements applied to introducing such a policy. These tests should have been supplied by your employer. Note that some people may have returned a positive test even if they were no longer infectious.

For more information on normal consultation requirements, see:

Workplace change process

Previous Leave Support Scheme

The COVID-19 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 (then called 'COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support Scheme') and 15 August 2023.

More information:

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme – Work and Income (external link)

Contractors and self-employed

Contractor arrangements were not covered by this guidance. Businesses and contractors could agree to any payment arrangements they wished.

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Page last revised: 14 September 2022

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