Leave and pay
Refer to COVID-19 State Services Workforce Guidelines for further information
1. Is there paid special leave for employees in self-isolation?
Yes. Paid special leave is for an employee self-isolating in line with Ministry of Health advice, where it is not practicable for the employee to work from home.
2. What if someone doesn’t have any sick leave left?
If the employee is sick and unable to work, they should use their accumulated sick leave entitlement. If an employee is sick (or caring for a sick dependant) with COVID-19 and has insufficient sick/dependant leave, they may receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave so they continue to be paid.
If an employee is well enough to work from home, they should be paid as normal.
3. Can State sector employers access the Government’s Wage Subsidy Scheme?
No. The scheme is not intended for State sector employers. The Commission’s guidance outlines the leave and payment approach that should be taken for employees in various scenarios, including self-isolation.
4. Some of our employees have rostered overtime. Our usual practice with sick leave is to include payment for the unworked rostered overtime for the period. What approach should we take for special leave when an employee is self-isolated?
If a staff member is sick or caring for a family member with Covid-19, they would be entitled to their normal sick leave. This would include payment for rostered overtime that hasn’t been worked. If they are self-isolating, they would be on special leave with pay (or working from home if they were able), and therefore the rostered overtime payment does not apply.
5. Should employees be reimbursed for travel costs when they are deployed to other workplaces or their normal travel option is unavailable to their usual workplace?
Travel costs when deployed to other workplaces
Employment agreements and/or workplace policies may provide for reimbursement if an employee faces additional travel costs when deployed to another workplace. In instances not covered by employment agreements or workplace polices, employers should consider appropriate reimbursement of costs incurred on top of normal travel undertaken by employees. This will vary for each employee and employers should consider reimbursement on an individual basis. The host agency should cover those costs for deployments.
An example is when an employee’s usual transport is a bus but they’ve been deployed to a worksite that is not near a bus route. The usual cost of getting to and from work is the cost of the bus fare to the employee’s usual workplace. The employee will now drive to work (no bus available) and incur parking costs. Appropriate reimbursement is the amount of parking costs and using a private vehicle minus the usual bus fare. Some organisations have set costs per kilometre in employment agreements for using a private vehicle. Inland Revenue prescribes kilometre rates for business use of vehicles that may be appropriate.
Changed travel options to usual workplace
If an employee is required at their workplace and their normal means of public transport has changed because of COVID-19, employers and employees may need to be flexible and consider altered start and finish times to meet any changed transport service timetables.
Agencies should consider reimbursement for any costs incurred on top of normal travel undertaken by the employee only if flexible arrangements cannot be agreed. This does not mean that an employee can expect to be reimbursed just because of reduced transport services.
Recruitment and resignation
6. Should I continue with a recruitment process?
If it is a business-critical role, you should continue. But consider whether you may be able to redeploy existing employees or other State services staff to fill this need. If it is not a critical role, you could postpone the process (if no offer and acceptance has occurred).
7. What do I do with people who accepted an employment offer made before the COVID-19 restrictions?
If they’ve already resigned from their previous employment and have agreed a start date, you are legally obliged to honour that, unless both parties agree otherwise. If they are due to start during the lockdown, you will need to discuss alternative ways of giving them work to start (but be sure to provide adequate on-boarding support, such as Code of Conduct advice, support to work remotely, health and safety advice and advice on information security).
8. How should I treat an employee who now wants to withdraw their resignation?
If an employee has resigned and later seeks to withdraw or rescind that resignation, you can choose to accept their request, but are not obliged to.
In considering whether to agree, you should weigh up whether doing so would impact others (such as where arrangements have been made to fill the position). Even where arrangements to fill the vacancy have been made, you may be able to retain the employee in an alternative position.
Fixed-terms and contractors
9. How should we treat fixed-term employees whose employment agreements are due to expire during an alert level that precludes them from being in the workplace?
You should consider whether you were likely to have extended this, if the workplace restrictions had not been in place. In many cases the reason for the temporary appointment remains, so an extension would be appropriate. Or you can consider whether you may be able to redeploy existing employees or other State services staff to fill this need. Otherwise, the fixed term can be allowed to expire, subject to necessary notice having been provided.
10. What should we do with our contractors when an alert level precludes them from being in the workplace?
Agencies should assess the priority of the work being carried out by the contractor. If it is priority work, working from home arrangements that meet H&S requirements should be considered. Agencies should refer to the contracts for services they have with individual contractors when considering what to do in the case that working from home is not feasible.
Some contracting agreements will continue even though work is not being undertaken, such as a cleaning contract for an office that is not in use. Again, agencies should refer to the contracts for services they have with individual contractors when considering what to do with these contracts. We encourage you to discuss the ongoing arrangements with the company supplying the services. Many of these companies will be able to access support for their staff through the Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.
11. Are contractors eligible for sick pay?
Agencies should refer to the contracts for services they have with individual contractors. If contractors are sick, their usual arrangements should apply.
The Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme is available to self-employed contractors, employees of contracting organisations and sole-traders.
Health and safety
12. What are our health and safety obligations for people who are unable to work from home, eg, caseworkers, shift workers, frontline emergency services? And what do we need to do to protect them?
Obligations to essential workers unable to work from home are set out in the COVID-19 State Services Workforce Guidelines
13. How do we manage key person risk?
Key person risks should be identified in your business continuity plan.
14. What are my privacy obligations to employees in a pandemic?
Balancing the right of employees to privacy with health and safety obligations is front of mind for many agencies. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has a useful webpage covering key privacy issues and providing advice.