COVID-19 Lockdown – What now?
We’ve reached Alert Level 4. What does this mean for employers?
As an employer you have obligations under the Employment Relations Act 2000 to be fair and reasonable to your employees. You also have wider obligations to all people at your workplace (not just to your employees) as a Person in Control of a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).
- Only Essential Services/Businesses are allowed to operate. These services/businesses must put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including:
- shift-based working;
- staggered meal breaks;
- flexible leave arrangements; and
- physical distancing.
A list of Essential Services can be found here: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/
- Non-essential Services/Businesses must close unless they can operate remotely.
Please be aware of the following:
- Employees who are able to work from home should be paid their usual salary/wages.
- Even if your employees cannot work remotely, you must continue to pay them unless they are unable to work for a reason unrelated to the lockdown. You cannot force them to take sick leave or annual leave unless they agree, though if you cannot agree you can require them to take annual leave if you give 14 days’ notice.
- We understand that you may wish to reduce your staff numbers. Please seek legal advice before your proceed. You may open yourself up to the risk of personal grievances and other claims if you:
- Stop paying your employees if they would, but for the lockdown, be able to work;
- Make employees redundant without undergoing a consultation process;
- Reduce an employee’s salary/wages without their consent;
- Otherwise dismiss employees without both a good reason and a fair process.
- Your business may qualify for government support to help you to continue pay your employees – for more information please download our COVID-19 support package document.
Please note that while the country is in lockdown, the lawyers at Saunders & Co are still available by phone and email to provide legal advice and guidance. For more information and specific legal advice on your employment relations and health and safety obligations, please contact us at the below details:
Andrew Riches (Partner)
M: 021 982 115
Claire McCool (Senior Associate)
M: 021 885 086
Deborah Hendry (Lawyer)
For more information on Covid-19 and its status, check the following websites:
- New Zealand Government – Unite Against COVID-19: https://covid19.govt.nz/
- The World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/
- The New Zealand Ministry of Health: https://www.health.govt.nz/
- Your local District Health Board website.