An all-of-government group leads the COVID-19 response. These guidelines are issued as part of the Public Service Commissioner’s responsibilities under that response.

These workforce guidelines assist State services agencies to comply with the public health and social measures being taken in the fight against COVID-19.

The State services should follow these workforce guidelines during a pandemic. In applying these guidelines, it is important that State services agencies take a consistent approach and model what is expected for the rest of New Zealand.

Complying with the public health and social measures is the bottom line for all agencies while continuing to provide public services to the fullest extent possible for all New Zealand.

Agencies should continue to engage with staff and unions on planning for complying with the public health and social measures of the COVID-19 response.

Agency chief executives are responsible for deciding how to apply these guidelines in the particular context of their agency.

Current situation

On 21 September the Government announced:

  • Auckland will move to Alert Level 2 with no extra restrictions, from 11:59pm on Wednesday 23 September.
  • The rest of the country will move to Alert Level 1 from 11.59pm on Monday 21 September.

The Government has agreed in principle that Auckland will move down to Alert Level 1 from 11:59pm on Wednesday 7 October.  It will review this and make a final decision on Monday 5 October.

This guidance is provided to assist agencies with workforce matters as they move alert levels. Guidance on the health and safety and workplace considerations is available from the Government Health and Safety Lead and Government Property Group.

These guidelines will be updated as further decisions are made. Check this website for the latest version.

Key principles to apply at Alert Level 2

Services and working arrangements should be maintained at usual levels from the usual place of work. Public services should continue to be delivered and usual working arrangements maintained. This should be the default position for your agency.

Agencies must meet Alert Level 2, WorkSafe and public health requirements. Agencies must adhere to legislative and government requirements to operate safely, including implementing controls and measures to meet Alert Level 2 standards for workplaces, such as a general requirement for physical distancing of one metre in the workplace, hygiene practices, wearing face coverings and contact tracing including use of the COVID-19 tracer app QR codes.

Continue to take account of individual employee circumstances. At Alert Level 2 we need to continue to ensure that employees’ personal circumstances are taken into account. This includes being, or caring for someone who is at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, or someone affected by public transport limitations. In these circumstances consider alternative ways of working such as remote or shift-based working, rotation of staff, staggering meal breaks and flexible leave to address any pressures on public transport.


  • from 11.59pm on Wednesday 23 September additional restrictions on gatherings in Auckland will be eased. Gatherings may include up to 100 people
  • in Auckland, wearing face coverings remains mandatory on domestic flights to, from or through Auckland, and on public transport such as trains, buses and ferries (not school buses or taxis)
  • for the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level 1, wearing face coverings on domestic flights to, from or through Auckland is mandatory. It is not mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport, but it is recommended.

Key principles for Alert Level 1

Staff are in the workplace. Alert Level 1 does not require physical distancing; workplaces should be operating safely with staff working according to their usual working arrangements. 

Adhere to legislative and government requirements. Agencies must adhere to general Health and Safety at Work Act obligations.  It will also be important to be aware of the public health advice for Alert Level 1.

Be prepared. The risk of further cases of COVID-19 remains.  Agencies need to ensure their plans enable a quick response should there be any raising of the alert level in the future.

Continue to develop your flexible working policies. At Alert Level 1 workplaces are operating normally within health and safety requirements. Arrangements agencies had in place to support staff working from home at Alert Levels 3 and 4 were directly linked to the requirements of the COVID-19 response.  This is not the same as flexible working.

Te Kawa Mataaho has published guidance and resources on flexible work by default as part of the Gender Pay Gap Acton Plan.  The guidance and resources support agencies to establish or refresh flexible work policies that fit their specific context.  They cover all forms of flexible working including alternative start and finish times, part-time work, as well as remote working.

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