Covid-19: Advice for employers
Here is some guidance for employers worried about managing staff illness, self-isolation requirements and employment obligations during the latest Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand:
1. Develop and implement a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) now to help prepare your business or organisation to get through any disruption that may occur. Key questions to ask yourself and your business plus a link to a useful template to base your BCP on can be found here.
2. Have a good faith discussion with your staff regarding your BCP and how you will manage health and safety in the workplace, travel restrictions, sick leave and self-isolation. You can find helpful information for employers on the Employment New Zealand website.
3. Flexible Working Arrangements – ensure that you have systems in place to allow employees to work remotely or flexibly, if they have to self-isolate but are still well enough to work. If employees are able to work from home, then it will be “business as usual” and they will continue to receive pay. If working from home is not practical for your business, and employees need to self-isolate, think about arranging with employees to use annual leave, sick leave in advance, special leave (paid leave that is in addition to statutory leave entitlements). The Government also has a number of support packages available for employers which includes wage subsidies and self-isolation leave support payments.
4. Sick Leave – put in place a policy for dealing with sick leave if employees become ill with COVID-19. For employees who do not have enough sick leave accumulated to cover the period of illness and subsequent self-isolation, consider giving sick leave in advance of entitlement. The policy should make clear that if employment is terminated for any reason, employees may be required to reimburse any sick leave taken in advance of entitlement.
If you are clear from the outset about how you will deal with sick leave and business closure, it will help staff plan any annual leave they may have as they may wish to keep annual leave for times when they are unable to work.
5. Remember usual employment law still applies. Employers cannot unilaterally make changes to employee’s hours of work, rates of pay or other conditions of employment without the employee’s agreement.
If you are facing challenges managing work and pay for your employees during this time, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice before taking any steps.
The above information is of a general nature only. The information in this article does in no way constitute legal advice and all readers should contact a law firm for advice relating to your specific circumstances.
About Vanessa Baakman
Vanessa is a Senior Associate in our Litigation Team and specialises in employment law, acting for both employers and employees.