ALERT LEVEL 3: Stay at home, other than for essential personal movement. Work and study from home if you can

At Alert Level 3 people should stay at home other than for essential personal movement. Work and study from home if you can. Travel restrictions apply.

Some workplaces may open if workers cannot work from home and safety requirements are met, including no contact with customers and no customers on the premises unless exemptions or exceptions apply.

Some controlled gatherings are permitted, public venues are closed. Wear a face covering if you leave your home. Early learning centres and schools for years 1 -10 are open, with appropriate health measures in place. Some critical public services are exempt from the Alert Level 3 requirements.

Always refer to covid19.govt.nz for further information about Alert Level 3.

Health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace

All workers should work from home if possible.

Workplaces should open only if:

  • workers cannot work from home, and
  • the workplace can operate safely, and
  • customers do not enter the premises (unless exempt or an exception), and
  • workers do not have physical contact with customers.

Safe workplace operation requires compliance with:

Every agency with any workers onsite must undertake a health and safety risk assessment and complete a plan outlining how it will manage health and safety and public health risks to workers and the workplace.

If workers require essential resources to enable working from home, agencies should prefer contactless delivery to workers rather than workers collecting resources from the workplace. Minimise the number of workers on site required to arrange deliveries.

This does not apply to schools, which have special arrangements in place.

If employees are working from home, their home is considered a workplace and agencies have a responsibility to eliminate or minimise the risks as much as reasonably practicable. More information about working from home during COVID-19 has been developed by the Government Health and Safety Lead.

Agencies should promote general public health advice:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wear a face covering when outside the home and in workplaces that involve contact with customers
  • Keep track of where you have been, turn on Bluetooth in the COVID-19 tracer app and scan QR codes
  • Maintain physical distancing - 2 metres in public and retail stores, 1 metre in controlled environments, like workplaces and schools.
  • Wash and dry hands, cough into elbow, avoid touching your face
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces
  • Stay home if you’re sick, report flu-like symptoms.

For further information refer to WorkSafe NZ guidance, the Government Health and Safety Lead’s guidance to agencies and their employee resource on reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Most staff are working from home so it is important employers consider the impacts on mental wellbeing by:

  • Ensuring EAP is accessible.
  • Ensuring managers have a plan to maintain connection with their teams.
  • Connecting staff with publicly available campaigns and resources.

Face coverings

Wear a face covering if you leave your home.

Face coverings are legally required to be worn at certain businesses or services operating at Alert Level 3. This includes public areas of services provided under the Oranga Tamariki Act, Justice sector services, courts and tribunals and social service providers.

Face coverings are also legally required at arrival and departure points for public transport services and on public transport and flights throughout New Zealand.

Agencies should do a health and safety assessment to determine whether there are other circumstances where face coverings must be worn in the workplace for health and safety reasons. For example, agencies should make face coverings mandatory in any public-facing areas.

Agencies should support people to wear face coverings and provide them in circumstances where their use is required in the workplace.

If an employee who is required to wear a face covering does not do so, in the first instance consider alternative duties they can perform without one. If that is not practicable then instruct the employee to wear a face covering. If they continue not to wear a face covering, apply usual agency practice where an employee refuses a lawful instruction.

Contact record keeping

A contact record rule comes into force on 7 September 2021 for certain businesses and services operating at Alert Level 3. This makes it mandatory to have systems and processes in place to ensure that all people entering a workplace scans the QR code or provides a contact record.

Agencies must ensure that privacy and safety of individuals are protected. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has provided guidance on privacy and COVID-19 including contract tracing and registers.

Travel within the Alert Level 3 area

Travel within an Alert Level 3 area is limited, except for permitted reasons. Employers and employees should refer to permitted movement within Alert Level 3 for details.

Agencies should provide any worker required to travel for work purposes with documentation certifying that the travel is for a permitted reason.

Travel between Alert Level areas

Business and work travel across the Alert Level 4 and 3 boundary is strictly limited to stop the spread of the virus. Agencies must have systems and processes in place, so far as is reasonably practicable, to minimise travel of workers between regions or alert level areas. Risks of spreading COVID-19 that arise from such travel must be mitigated.

Agencies must provide any worker who is required to travel across an alert level boundary with acceptable evidence that they are permitted to cross the boundary.

A Business Travel Document issued by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is the preferred type of evidence. The MBIE website provides details of how to get Business Travel Documentation. Alternatively agencies can provide a letter stating the worker is providing an Alert Level 4 business or service, along with evidence of the destination the worker is travelling to.

Agencies must ensure that workers driving across alert level boundaries have the required evidence and carry their photo driver’s licence.

International travel

Updates on international travel advice is provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Immigration New Zealand.

Maximising delivery of services

To maintain 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. 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.

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

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

Access to and payment of special leave for casual employees who cannot work from home

There will be circumstances where a casual employee was engaged to work when a workplace was closed due to the requirements of Alert Level 3. If the casual employee is unable to work from home, special leave should be provided, as with other employees.

Although a casual engagement can be ended by giving the appropriate notice in the agreement, agencies should also honour any rostered/agreed commitment that may exist for the period a workplace is inaccessible.

Some casual employees are engaged on a frequent, casual basis – for example where called on at short notice a number of times in a typical period. In these circumstances the employer would have expected to utilise the casual employee during a period the workplace is inaccessible. In the context of the COVID-19 response, public sector employers should consider paying a typical average level of pay for the period. This supports an important employment group and recognises that they may not have access to Government support measures.

Self-isolation

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.

Household members of a person who has either attended a location of interest or is a contact of a positive case are also required to self-isolate until that person receives a negative COVID-19 result. Check the Ministry of Health website for details.

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 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.

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 for sickness, they may receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave so they can continue to be paid.

Annual leave

Show flexibility with requests for leave or requests to cancel previously approved annual leave.

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

Employees may request annual leave as per normal processes. Employees should advise their employer whether pre-approved annual leave requests or new annual leave requests involve travel within New Zealand or overseas. Employers should ask employees requesting leave if they intend to travel during their leave (including outside their region).

If, for any reason, an employee requesting annual leave intends to travel overseas, or 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 as far as possible, however:

  • Flexibility should be allowed where employees are unable to take TOIL soon after accrual.
  • TOIL should not be required to be taken instead of paid special leave for sickness dependent care or self-isolation as per public health advice.

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

Children should learn at home if possible. Early learning centres and schools in Alert Level 3 regions are open for Years 1-10 students whose parents have to go to work and have no caregiver arrangements, particularly essential workers. If caregiving is available parents are encouraged to keep children at home.

Where a school or early learning centre closure affects an employee’s ability to attend the workplace, the employee should work from home as much as possible. If they cannot work from home, or are only partially available for work, special paid leave should be given for time not working.

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