There has been quite a few updates since our last newsletter, and questions from clients about paying your employees during the Covid outbreak, this has been included in today’s newsletter as well as the following:

  • New Targeted Financial Support for Businesses Affected By COVID-19
  • Close Contact Exemption Scheme, Critical Service Workers & ‘Bubble Of One’ For Workers That Are Close Contacts.
  • Minimum Wage Set to Increase in April 2022.

Employee Leave and Pay Entitlements During COVID-19

As the COVID-19 cases continue to increase we are going to see a lot more employees off work and/or working from home. The following resources have some great information about how to deal with leave and pay entitlements throughout COVID-19 and what to do when staff are impacted:

Rights and Responsibilities – Employment NZ
This includes a table that will help you with different leave scenarios.
Guidance for workplaces with staff impacted by COVID-19

As always, if you are going to be making any changes to an Employment Contract during this time, you must first discuss the options with your employee(s), reach an agreement, put any changes into a a Variation Agreement and get the employee to sign this.

Summary Notes / Questions:
• If your employee is sick, cannot work from home and awaiting results from a PCR Test –
Your business may be able to apply for the COVID-19 Short Term Absence Payment. This is a one off payment of $359 per eligible employee and you can view more details here. This would need to be passed onto the employee, then you could discuss using sick leave entitlements (if available) with the employee if you need to top this up.
• If your employee has Covid, or has been advised to self isolate and they cannot work from home:
Your business may be able to apply for the Leave Support Scheme for this employee, which is a one-week payment of $600 for full-time employees (over 20 hours), and $359 for part-time employees (less than 20 hours). You can view eligibility details here.
This would need to be passed onto the employee, and applied for weekly, then:
– If the employee has COVID you could discuss using sick leave entitlements (if available) with the employee if you need to top this up.
– If the employee has been asked to self isolate, and they cannot work remotely you could discuss using their entitled/accrued Annual leave.
If the leave above is not available then you may need to discuss leave such as alternative holidays (if available), special leave or leave without pay.
Any agreements made with your employees must be put in writing. Let us know if you would like a copy of our leave form by emailing monica@asl.co.nz.
• If you need to ask employees that are well to do overtime to cover staff shortages.
You can ask your staff to work over and above their normal working hours, however this must be mutually agreed with the employee unless they have a provision for this in their employment agreement

View more questions and answers here

Please be aware this whole section is our recommendation and is based on the information currently provided (may change over time). For some circumstances, you may need to seek legal advice.

New Targeted Financial Support for Businesses Affected By COVID-19

Targeted COVID Support Payment
Businesses struggling with revenue during the Omicron outbreak can apply for new targeted funding, as announced by the Government on Monday 21st February.
Applications for the first payment open on February 28, with payments starting from March 1.
There will be 3 payments in total, available on a fortnightly basis. The new scheme is based on the understanding that the Omicron outbreak will pass over about 6 weeks. This scheme may be extended.
Each COVID Support Payment will be $4000 per business plus $400 per full-time employee, capped at 50 FTEs or $24,000.
Businesses must show a 40 percent drop in 7 consecutive days within the 6 weeks prior to the shift to Phase 2 of the Omicron response on February 15, compared to 7 days after that date.
More details, the eligibility criteria, as well as the link to apply will be updated in  this link over the next few days.

Top up available under the Small Business Loan Scheme
Revenue Minister David Parker announced that this scheme is going to be extended, so that businesses who have already applied for the initial loan can apply for an additional $10,000.
This loan would have to be repaid within 5 years and the first 2 years would be interest free.
He also mentioned any interest accrued on the first 2 years of the initial loan will now be cancelled so that it only begins to accrue from year 3.
More details, the eligibility criteria, as well as the link to apply will be updated in this link over the next few days.

Close Contact Exemption Scheme, Critical Service Workers & ‘Bubble Of One’ For Workers That Are Close Contacts

During phase two and three, employees who are close contacts, asymptomatic and part of critical service roles can continue working outside of their place of residence as long as they return a negative RAT test result. They must test prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period and follow certain health measures. For more information about these Health measures click here.

You can now use a self assessment tool to see if your business meets the criteria for being a critical service, and the link to this can be found here. Critical services sectors include food production and it’s supply chain, health and emergency services, principal accommodation, power & water supplies, critical financial services, social welfare, media and human/animal health and welfare.
If your business qualifies, you can then register on the Close Contact Exemption Scheme Critical Services Register.
Once Eligible businesses have signed up to the scheme, the employee who has been a close contact, without any symptoms, can go to a community vaccination clinic to get a pack to 10 RAT’s.

For businesses who aren’t a critical service, you may be able to have an employee that is a close contact on-site if they are not customer facing and can maintain a ‘bubble of one’ while at work (including travelling to and from work). The employee must be vaccinated, not have symptoms, be able to maintain an individual ‘bubble of one’ while at work, and follow these health measures.

For both the critical service workers and employees working in a ‘bubble of one’ – the employee must self isolate as standard for close contacts while not at work.

On another note, if you are struggling to get a supply of masks or RAT tests for your business the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce may be able to help by putting you in touch with some suppliers, just call 0800 50 50 96 or email info@cecc.org.nz.

 

Minimum Wage Set to Increase in April 2022

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood has announced that the minimum wage is set to increase from $20 to $21.20 per hour from 1 April 2022. The starting-out and training minimum wage will also increase from $16 to $16.96 per hour.

 

 

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