In this COVID-19 update Laura wraps up week 1 of the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 Nationwide Lockdown. We've also got some wise words from Mandy that all New Zealand employers should read.
Good Faith Still Applies
When the government announced that a wage subsidy was available for employers to apply for, the expectation was that employers would make every effort to maintain 80% of an employee’s usual income. This was not intended to override employment law obligations.
Quick Decisions & Fast Changes
We are in unprecedented times. Decisions have had to be made very quickly based on the information available and an employer’s particular circumstances. This has included looking at what work can or can’t be performed from home during the lockdown, how employees are to be paid, how leave entitlements might be dealt with, and what essential services are. As the Alert Level 4 lockdown continues, we see continuing change.
Good Communication Essential
What is key is that employers (and employees too) cannot over communicate at this time. This means actively talking to staff, explaining what is being proposed and why, and enabling staff to come back with questions, suggestions or views for consideration.
It's quite possible there will be a mixture of approaches happening in a business - from staff working as normal but remotely from home, staff working from home on reduced or limited hours, right through to staff not being able to work at all. This might influence who can be paid and what they can or must be paid.
Agreed Annual Leave
For annual holidays the law is clear. Annual holidays can be taken by agreement. Where agreement cannot be reached, then direction to take leave can be given by an employer so long as the legal requirements are met. This requires 14 days’ notice in writing to take annual leave.
Interruption / Force Majeure Clauses
Many employment agreements have business interruption or force majeure clauses. Good faith needs to be observed where those clauses may be enacted, and again good discussion and communication with employees initially is important.
Staff Communication Advice
For further advice about communicating with staff, how to provide opportunities for input and feedback from staff, or how to go about implementing decisions, contact the team at Grow HR on email@example.com or 06 8785454
Many more questions will arise. We'll update you all again when we can but in the interim if you have urgent questions please get in touch with the team on 06 878 5454 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, please remember to stay home if you're not an essential worker and only leave your bubble when absolutely necessary for no more than one hour a day.
You can walk the dog, go for a run or go to the supermarket (maybe at the same time), and switch your children with their other parent or caregivers.
Most importantly of all, take care, be kind to yourself and others, and remember we will get through this.
Official sources of COVID-19 information
- The New Zealand Government's Official Source of Information
- Hawke's Bay COVID-19 Response from Hawke's Bay Business Hub
- COVID-19 Updates from Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce
- PlanA Consulting COVID-19 Information for Businesses
- MBIE – The Kiwi Business Boost
- MBIE – COVID-19 Information For Businesses
- Ministry of Health coronavirus up-to-date guidance
- Ministry of Health workforce pandemic influenza guidance
- Ministry of Health coronavirus questions and answers
- Ministry of Health coronavirus self-isolation guidance
- Ministry of Health coronavirus advice for travellers
- Employment during and after disasters
- Business.govt.nz emergency planning
- Worksafe workplace preparedness for novel coronavirus
- Protect yourself against coronavirus poster
- Protect yourself against coronavirus poster - simplified Chinese
- For any further questions about employment rights and responsibilities, contact Employment New Zealand