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Updates

17 March 2020

COVID-19 is having a big impact in New Zealand and many businesses are already feeling the pressure. We are dedicating this month's newsletter to help our clients stay informed.  We will look at the health and economic response to deal with this situation, and what your obligations are as an employer or Director.

CURRENT SITUATION 

At the time of compiling this newsletter, the following information was available:

  • There are 8 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand

  • From 1.00 am Monday morning all people entering New Zealand must self-isolate for 14 days. Travelers from the Pacific Islands are the only exception.

  • There is a ban on cruise ships entering New Zealand waters.

  • Many large gatherings have been cancelled and we should expect there will be further cancellations.

  • The travel restrictions mentioned above do not apply to freight deliveries, which should continue to arrive in New Zealand.

SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19 INCLUDE:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

Remember, symptoms can be mild, so its best to be over-cautious at this time.

FLATTEN THE CURVE

You’ve heard it mentioned in the media, but what exactly does “flatten the curve” mean?

In order for our health system to cope with cases requiring ICU treatment, we need to ensure any spread of the pandemic is slow. Italy is an example of what can happen when there are too many serious cases too fast – there simply aren’t enough ICU beds to cope and Doctors have to prioritise who gets treatment.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The predictions of the economic impact of COVID-19 vary widely, but most agree there will be a significant impact to New Zealand’s economy for all of 2020.

The Government has indicated that a package of support programmes is being developed. Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said that these include “tax and welfare changes that support incomes and consumption, and help businesses stay afloat”. We are expecting an announcement from the Government later today (Tuesday 17th March) on the details of this package. We will work quickly to understand what support is available and will communicate what this means for you.

Our team are well prepared to continue to provide you with an uninterrupted level of service and support during this time, so please don’t hesitate to contact us as usual.  

WE'RE HERE FOR YOU - GETTING SUPPORT

We understand this is a very stressful time for many of you. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the recent events relating to COVID-19, you may find it helpful to have somebody to talk to. We have arranged for our Employee Assistance Programme to be extended to include our clients. This programme will allow you the opportunity to access professional, helpful and confidential guidance. If you would like to find out more, please reply to this email.

We have also partnered with Rede Finance to provide direction in relation to financial matters, including applications to banks under severe hardship policies. They are able to help you prepare for conversations with your bank manager, restructure debt, or develop other strategies to bridge any financial complications caused by the changing economy during COVID-19. To find out more about their services, visit here or use the button below to contact us.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE

Employers have a responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act to eliminate or minimise risks and hazards to their employees and anyone who may come to their workplace. This includes ensuring they are taking measures to protect employees from the risks of a pandemic.

Click here to view the Ministry of Health guidelines for Workplace infectious disease prevention.

Download Health & Safety in the Workplace Guide Here

WORKPLACE CLOSURES & PAYING EMPLOYEES

  • What are your options when employees have to self-isolate or you have to close your workplace?
  • An employee is self-isolated and can’t come into work. What are my obligations?
  • Can I make employees take leave?
  • I have to close the workplace as it presents an unacceptable risk to the team OR we have been ordered to close the workplace by a Health Official. What are my obligations?
  • Taking practical steps

Click here for the answers to the above.

DEALING WITH CONCERNS FROM YOUR TEAM

I have employees who are responsible for caring for elderly family members or family members who are immune-compromised. What are their options?

In some situations, an employee may consider the workplace to be unsafe or to present unreasonable risks. They must discuss this with you in the first instance. You may be able to agree to work from home, take an extended period of leave, or come to another arrangement.

When do employees have to take leave?

If your workplace is open and employees are unable to work due to:

  • Being unwell

  • Needing to look after those who are ill

  • Needing to look after those who are shut out of school, day-care, etc

Then they will need to take sick leave (including anticipated sick leave), or annual holidays if you agree to it.

However, if they are ready and able to work, but are prevented from working because the workplace is closed or there is no work available for any reason, then you must pay them their normal salary or wages with no deduction to leave balances. If employees already had leave booked during this period, and they intend to take the leave rather than reschedule it, then you may still deduct that leave.

STAYING INFORMED

There’s a lot of information circling the internet, so make sure you are getting your updates from trusted sources only, such as:

Others:
The NZ Government has collated information here
The Ministry of Health has produced some resources available here
The NZ Herald has gathered information, including videos and links here

Contact Us

Disclaimer:
We relied on information from the following sources when compiling this newsletter: 
Ministry of Health, WorkSafe, NZ Herald & Employment Law Updates.
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