ALERT LEVEL 2: Workplaces remain open

Maximising delivery of services

It is important that services are delivered as close to normal as possible. Workplaces should remain open. Working arrangements should be maintained at usual levels from the usual place of work.

To maintain delivery of services it may be necessary during all alert levels for some employees to cover work usually performed by other employees that is not within the scope of their role. Express agreement may be needed to do this.

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.

Agencies with lower priority functions should consider exploring where their employees may be able to assist priority service delivery by other agencies. These employees could agree to cover priority service delivery or be on call for others who may become unable to work. See the COVID-19 Workforce Mobility Guidance for State Services Agencies for further information.

Health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace

Employees should work in the workplace or usual place of work where it is safe to do so.

There is a general requirement for physical distancing of one metre at work.

Agencies should conduct their own risk assessments and engage with unions and workers to determine the most appropriate measures across different work sites and operations.

Refer to WorkSafe NZ Alert Level 2 workplace health and safety guidance, and to the Government Health and Safety Lead website for agency health and safety considerations under Alert Level 2. Always refer to covid19.govt.nz for more information on Alert Level 2.

Vulnerable employees may work in the workplace if they agree with their employer that they can do so safely. Working from home should be available where possible.

If a vulnerable employee does not agree arrangements with their employer to work safely in the workplace, 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, those in their household, and 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 cannot agree, the employer 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.

Agencies must be able to manage health and safety risks of staff onsite by:

  • Enabling contact tracing of everyone in the workplace including encouraging the use of the NZ COVID-19 tracer app
  • Enabling physical distancing requirements to be met
  • Maintaining enhanced cleaning of workplaces and equipment
  • Promotion of hand hygiene
  • Strongly encourage face coverings in situations where physical distancing is difficult, noting that face coverings are mandatory on public transport
  • Provision of personal hygiene and cleaning equipment i.e. hand sanitiser
  • Provision of required personal protective equipment (PPE) if required by Ministry of Health guidance for Alert Level 2
  • Review unassigned workstation arrangements to ensure health and safety obligations are effectively managed.

Agencies should promote general public health advice: wear a face covering where physical distancing is difficult; regularly disinfect surfaces; wash and dry hands, cough into elbow; if you’re sick, stay home, don’t go to work or school, don’t socialise; if you have cold or flu symptoms  call your doctor or Healthline and get tested.

Alternative ways of working are encouraged where practicable. There will be high demand on infrastructure like public transport. Be aware of any reductions in services – having different groups of workers starting and finishing at set times would be helpful.

Staff may have differing attitudes about being in the workplace and there may be some anxiety about how safe the workplace can be, so:

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

Self-isolation

At all alert levels self-isolation is required for people who display COVID-19 related symptoms, 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.

Where an employee is required to self-isolate (or must care for a dependant who is required to self- isolate) they must not come into work and 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 risks to the employee, those in their household or ‘bubble’ and 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.

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

Those employees unable to work from home should be prioritised for continuing to work in the workplace.

For employees who cannot be accommodated safely in the workplace and cannot work from home, paid special leave should be given, paid at normal rates.

Employees required to self-isolate (or must care for a dependant who is required to self- isolate) and are unable to work from home should receive paid special leave, paid at normal rates for time not working.

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

Employees may be unable to work due to COVID-19 related sickness or a requirement to care for dependants who are similarly unwell. In these circumstances:

  • Sick or dependant leave should be used, and payment should be in line with usual agency practice.
  • If the employee has insufficient sick leave, they may receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave so they can continue to be paid.

Employees may be unable to work, or only partially available to work if they need to care for a dependant whose usual care is unavailable or who is not sick but may require some care due to COVID-19 related reasons:

  • Employees should work to the extent possible, including from home.
  • Where it is not possible for an employee to work from home, and to cover periods of unavailability for work, dependant leave (or equivalent) if applicable should be used. Dependant leave (or equivalent) or paid special leave is paid as per normal agency practice.

If the employee has insufficient dependant leave, or dependant leave is only available in relation to sickness, they may receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave so they can continue to be paid.

Annual leave

Employers should not direct employees to utilise annual leave if there are limited opportunities for rest and recreation activities.

Employees may request annual leave as per normal processes. Employees should advise their employer if a pre-approved annual leave request or new request involves travel overseas. Employers should ask employees requesting leave if they intend to travel overseas during their leave.

Travel

Where there are restrictions on travel between regions, agencies should ensure any business travel complies with these restrictions.

For domestic travel restrictions employers and employees should refer to personal movement advice for Alert Level 2 at covid19.govt.nz

Updates on international travel advice is 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 or to a restricted region within New Zealand 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.

For example, as part of a planned return to the workplace consideration should be given to asking employees to use accumulated TOIL or alternative holidays to cover periods before the workplace becomes fully accessible.

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 on an individual or group basis for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.

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 as much as 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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