ALERT LEVEL 1: Be prepared, be vigilant

Public health measures in place but no physical distancing is needed.


At all alert levels self-isolation is required for people who display symptoms relevant to COVID-19, test positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Mandatory quarantine/managed isolation is required for those who have been overseas in the last 14 days.

In some circumstances other contacts may also be required to self-isolate while waiting the result of a COVID-19 test. Check the Ministry of Health website for details.

Where an employee is required to self-isolate (or must care for a dependant who is required to self- isolate) they should work from home to the extent possible.

Where it is not possible for an employee to work from home, or to cover periods of unavailability for work, employees should receive paid special leave, paid at normal rates.

If an employee becomes ill with COVID-19 while in self-isolation, sick leave should be used. If the employee has insufficient sick leave the employee may receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave so that they continue to be paid.

If an employee wishes to self-isolate when public health advice does not require this, employers should:

  • take a health and safety risk-based approach to understand and investigate the concerns of their employee in good faith
  • consider the risk to the employee and those in their household unit and risk to other people in the workplace
  • determine an appropriate response in line with employer and employee duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and public health advice from the Ministry of Health.

If the parties agree that the employee should self-isolate based on public health guidelines and health and safety advice, the provisions above apply.

If the employer does not agree the employee should self-isolate, employers should treat the situation as a work from home request, generously applying the employer’s policy, and agree the employee works remotely wherever practicable.

Where it is not possible for an employee to work remotely, the employer should try to address the employee’s concerns as far as possible and ask the employee to attend work or agree a leave arrangement such as annual leave or unpaid special leave.

Maximising delivery of services

It may be necessary during all alert levels for some employees to cover work that is usually performed by other employees that is not within the scope of their role to maintain delivery of services. It is likely that in some cases, express agreement may be needed.

As part of the planning process employers should adopt and promote an approach to employees voluntarily agreeing to temporarily change work functions, location and/or hours of work. This should include engagement with relevant unions. Where employment agreements allow flexibility in the type, location and hours of work, employers should work with their employees and unions to maximise any opportunities.

Health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace

Workers can work in the workplace, though public health standards and health and safety obligations must be met. Physical distancing is not required but people are encouraged to keep a safe distance from those you don’t know while out and about.

Face coverings are required on all public transport and on all domestic flights.  

Face coverings are also recommended where physical distancing is difficult.

Agencies are not required to maintain records to enable contact tracing, but must display the NZ COVID Tracer QR code poster to help visitors keep track of where they’ve been.

Agencies should follow general public health advice (maintain good hygiene practices - regularly disinfect surfaces, wash and dry hands, cough and sneeze into elbow, don’t touch your face; if you have cold or flu symptoms stay at home and ring Healthline or your GP; keep track of where you’re going).

The workplace is in a business as usual state, so continue to:

  • Communicate clearly and often with staff.
  • Engage worker health and safety representatives and union delegates in planning and communications.
  • Ensure wellbeing support, including EAP, is accessible.

Paid special leave for employees unable to work from home or in the workplace

Usual leave arrangements and practices apply as per agency policies and employment agreements.

Access to and payment of special leave for casual employees

Casual employees should be managed as per agency policies and employment agreements.

Sick/Dependant Leave

Agencies’ approach to sick/dependant leave should be in line with agency policy and employment agreements.

Leave provisions should be applied in a way that does not lead to an employee attending work when they are sick or returning to work too early and placing others at risk.

Agencies should also support caregivers to be able to comply with public health advice to keep unwell children home from school or early childhood education.

Annual Leave

Leave balances should be managed in line with agency policies, employment agreements and operational priorities.

Work with employees and unions to implement agreed leave plans if needed.

Employees may request annual leave as per normal processes. Employees should advise their employer if pre-approved annual leave or new annual leave requests involve travel overseas and employers should ask employees if they intend to travel overseas during their leave.

Employers and employees should regularly refer to updates on travel advice provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Immigration New Zealand.

If, for any reason, an employee requesting annual leave intends to travel overseas contrary to public health advice, the employer and employee should discuss and agree how any required period of self-isolation or quarantine on return from leave should apply. In the first instance for any period of self-isolation, where practicable, the employee should work from home. If working from home is not practicable other forms of leave should be considered such as annual leave or special leave without pay.

If agreement cannot be reached between the employer and the employee, then the period of self-isolation will be unpaid leave.

Use of TOIL, alternative holidays and shift leave

TOIL, alternative holidays and shift leave accrual and use should be managed as per agency policies and employment agreements.

Public holiday payment

At all alert levels public holidays should be paid according to the Holidays Act or the employment agreement.

School closure impacting on ability to work

Schools and early learning centres are open.

Any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 must close temporarily, if advised by the public health unit, to support contact tracing and case and contact management.

If a dependant’s school or early learning centre is closed temporarily due to COVID-19 and the employee cannot arrange alternative supervision, the employee should work from home to the extent possible. Where the employee cannot work from home, or is only partially available for work, special paid leave should be given for time not working.

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