ALERT LEVEL 4: Stay at home, other than for essential personal movement and doing essential work
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 or ‘bubble’ 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.
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
Everyone should work from home if possible with some essential workers required to work at their workplace.
Every agency with essential workers must undertake a health and safety risk assessment and complete a plan outlining how the agency will manage health and safety and public health risks to workers and in the workplace.
If workers 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 (regularly disinfect surfaces; wash and dry hands, cough into elbow, don’t touch your face; stay home if you’re sick, report flu-like symptoms).
Most staff are working from home so it is important employers consider the impacts on mental wellbeing:
- Ensure EAP is accessible.
- Ensure managers have a plan to maintain connection with their teams.
- Connect staff with publicly available campaigns and resources.
Paid special leave for employees unable to work from home or in the workplace
For all employees who cannot work from home and are not deemed essential paid special leave should be given, paid at normal rates.
Access to and payment of special leave for casual employees
There will be circumstances where a casual employee was engaged to work when the workplace was closed due to the requirements of the COVID-19. If the casual employee therefore is not able to work, 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, State services employers should consider paying a typical average level of pay for the period to continue to support an important employment group, and to recognise that these employees do not have access to support through the Government’s wage subsidy scheme.
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.
Show flexibility in relation to requests for leave or requests to cancel previously approved annual leave.
Employers should not direct employees to utilise 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
Schools are closed.
Employees 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.