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 14 September the Government announced the extension of current Alert Levels as follows:

  • Auckland will remain at Alert Level 2 (with additional requirements) until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday 23 September. The Government has agreed, in principle, to move Auckland down to Alert Level 2 with eased restrictions on gatherings
  • the rest of New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 2 until 11.59pm on Monday 21 September. The Government has agreed, in principle, to move the rest of New Zealand down to Alert Level 1.

The Government will review the alert levels and make a final decision on Monday 21 September.

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.


  • face coverings are mandatory on public transport at Alert Level 2 and above (not school buses or taxis)
  • for Auckland there are additional restrictions on gatherings under Alert Level 2. Auckland social gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people (up to 50 for an authorised funeral or tangihanga gathering). Outside Auckland public gatherings will continue to be limited to 100 people.

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