17 August 2023

New Zealand’s Public Service has played a critical role in leading the Government’s COVID-19 response and recovery effort. Following the Government’s announcement on 14 August 2023 which revoked the remaining Health Orders requiring mask wearing within healthcare settings[1] and for mandatory isolation of cases for seven days[2], we are now able to manage the impact of infection without mandated requirements and formal Workforce Guidance.

It is important to note that COVID-19 is an ongoing health concern and as we continue the return to normal working systems, agencies will need to keep their health and safety risk assessments and policies under regular review and embed practices learnt. This will enable agencies to retain the ability to reactivate the mitigations that supported our response, ensuring we can quickly respond to a new wave or variant of concern.


This guidance is issued by Te Tumu Whakarae mō Te Kawa Mataaho | Public Service Commissioner under s95(a) of the Public Service Act 2020 and applies to Public Service agencies[3]. It replaces our COVID-19 Public Sector Workforce Guidance and will be reviewed and updated as changes to circumstances require. Agency chief executives are responsible for deciding how to apply this guidance in the context of their agency.

Operating services following removal of mandated restrictions and requirements for COVID-19

COVID-19 specific Government mandated restrictions and requirements have been removed and Public Sector workforces are operating under normal working systems.

Health and safety infection mitigations

Agencies should continue to follow health advice and review their policies and procedures in accordance with them. An agency may determine, based on a health and safety risk assessment process, that measures are required to mitigate risks. As part of this assessment, agencies should ensure that they are effectively engaging with employees and their representatives and should take health and safety and legal advice to ensure any measures are proportionate, appropriate and are least intrusive to employees. For example, agencies may continue to require or recommend mask wearing, as informed by their health and safety risk assessment and in accordance with advice from Te Whatu Ora — Health New Zealand.

As a minimum, we expect that agencies will continue to encourage healthy habits in the workplace, such as reviewing and updating hygiene, cleaning and ventilation practices.

Leave guidance

Whilst there is no legal requirement for people who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate, the Ministry of Health — Manatū Hauora recommends people to isolate for five days and stay home until they have recovered.

Sick leave or domestic/dependant leave should be provided in line with the employment agreement and the agency’s employment policies. If the employee has insufficient sick leave, agencies’ usual policies and practices relating to discretionary sick leave apply. Where the agency does not have a discretionary leave policy, one should be developed. Where the employee cannot work whilst caring for their dependant, then dependant leave (sick leave) in line with the employment agreement and employment policies should be provided.

If the agency requires proof of sickness, anyone reporting a COVID-19 test result following a rapid antigen test (RAT) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will receive a confirmation text from Te Whatu Ora. This confirmation text message can be used as proof of sickness.

The Ministry of Health provides information on caring for those who have, or may have, COVID-19 at home and requirements for anyone who is a household or high risk contact of a COVID-19 case. 

It is recommended that agencies treat cases of long COVID amongst their employees in the same way they would respond to any employee with a long-term illness, in accordance with their employment agreement and employment policies.

The following links provide the latest information for agencies:

[1] COVID-19 Public Health Response (Masks) Order 2022

[2] COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self-Isolation Requirements) Order 2022

[3]Public Service agencies are described as: Public Service departments; departmental agencies; New Zealand Police; the New Zealand Defence Force; the Parliamentary Counsel Office; Crown agents; Autonomous and Independent Crown entities; other Crown entities; organisations listed in Schedule 4, and companies listed in Schedule 4A, of the Public Finance Act 1989; and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.