Coronavirus COVID-19 - What Does Moving to Level 3 Look Like for Employers?


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COVID-19 - What Does Moving to Level 3 Look Like for Employers? 

On Monday this week the Government announced that New Zealand will move to Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

Level 3 will continue for 2 weeks, at which time Cabinet will review how we are tracking and make further announcements on what will be happening next on 11 May.

We have put together a page of FAQ’s for life in Alert Level 3.  See also:

https://covid19.govt.nz/latest-updates/new-zealand-be-at-alert-level-3-from-tuesday-28-april/

 

Can I open my business and start trading once Alert Level 3 is in place?

  • Under Alert Level 3, workplaces can open and operate if:
    • physical contact is not required;
    • its workers cannot work from home; and
    • the business is able to operate safely (for example observing physical distancing and contactless service).
  • Workers who can work from home must continue to do so.

What restrictions are being placed on those workplaces that are able to now open under Alert Level 3?

  • You must adhere to the public health requirements, such as:
  • supplying employees with hand sanitiser;
  • observing physical distancing in the workplace (this means 1 metre apart);
  • make sure that all your work surfaces are disinfected regularly.
    • Customers may not enter business premises unless your business is an essential service provider (such as doctor’s clinics and supermarkets).
    • Transactions must be “contactless” (such as phone/online orders and delivery).

I have an employee who is pivotal to the business but they think they need to stay at home to look after their children.  What options do we have?

  • Talk to your employee to find a working arrangement that could suit you both and try to reach agreement. Options could be:
    • agreeing to reduced or staggered hours for a set period;
    • offering to place the employee on special leave and only pay at least the Wage Subsidy (if you have received this);
    • discussing the use of leave entitlements; or perhaps
    • offering leave without pay for a set period.
  • Employers must make their expectations clear with their employees and when agreement is reached, this should be confirmed in writing and kept on the file such as via email to the employee. 

What if I need an employee to work in the work place but they refuse to do so because of health and safety reasons (either they are vulnerable, or are concerned about safety in the workplace)?

  • As for care arrangements (above) you should talk about possible solutions with your employee.
  • If the employee is vulnerable (because of age or a health condition) then the employee should not be expected to go to work. 
  • If the employee refuses to attend work more generally on health and safety grounds:
    • Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employees (as workers) can refuse to work if they have a reasonably held belief that they will be exposed to a serious risk to health and safety;
    • You must engage with your worker(s) about their views and work with them in good faith to resolve concerns;
    • You must comply with public health guidelines (including distancing, cleanliness and sanitisation).
  • If an employee is not at risk but refuses on health and safety grounds and you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to minimise the risk of infection, you can refer the matter to Worksafe to help resolve.

My employees have been, and can continue to, work from home but we may need to access our premises for stock/stationery etc.  Can I access this in Alert Level 3?

  • Yes, you will be able to access your premises to obtain items such as equipment and stock etc. in order to enable your employees to continue working from home, (you must however adhere to the Public Health requirements in your premises).
  • You will not be able to have face-to-face interactions with clients/customers.

My employees have agreed to reduce their hours and pay over this lockdown period, with the 12-week wage subsidy in place.  If they return to work fulltime, do I have to pay them in full from then on?

  • Generally, if the employee is working their normal agreed hours in full, you should pay them in full for this.
  • If you have already negotiated a pay cut (for a temporary period or permanently), then this may continue to pay employees at the new rate until new agreement is reached.

I have agreement for a reduction of hours and pay by my employees for the 12-week subsidy period.  It is likely that their pre-lockdown wages and employment will not be sustainable. Am I able to further reduce their hours/make some employees redundant, once we return to work?

  • Any changes to your employee’s terms and conditions will need to be negotiated in good faith and is dependent on any previous agreements reached with your employees. 
  • If you have accessed the Wage Subsidy post 27 March 2020, you are obligated to keep your employees employed until at least the 12-week subsidy is finished. 
  • You could start consulting with your employees on proposed changes to their employment, to look at occurring after the 12-week subsidy is exhausted.  
 

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to get in touch with our Employment Law Team.

 

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