The regulations surrounding COVID-19 are fast-changing and employers and business owners are faced with the difficult task of trying to keep up.
Household members requirement to isolate
Previously, household contacts were potentially required to self-isolate for periods of up to 24 days with no access to subsidies for assistance to cover time off. This created issues because employees are only entitled to 10 days of sick leave and further created issues for employers trying to navigate how or if they paid their employees for the time they were required to self-isolate above the employee's outstanding sick leave entitlements.
Now household members of someone with COVID-19 are only required to self-isolate for seven days provided that they take a Rapid Antigen Test on the third and seventh day, and it returns a negative result. The Government has also introduced a COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme that provides support for any employee required to self-isolate for four or more consecutive days. In these circumstances, employers can receive $600 for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week and $359 for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.
This can be applied to casual workers, provided that there is written agreement on what their usual hours would have been during the period of self-isolation. However, it is important to note that this subsidy is only available to people who are unable to work from home.
This payment is only a contribution to the payment of the employee and standard employment obligations still apply. Employers may find themselves still subject to a financial burden of self-isolation, having to top up the difference in wages for their employees. The employer must try to pay the employee their usual wages or at least 80% of their usual pay. Where this isn’t possible, a minimum of the Leave Support Scheme entitlement must be paid. Consultation and written agreement to the reduction in pay is required in accordance with standard employment obligations.
It is our strong recommendation that you seek legal advice before discussing any pay reductions for your employees due to their self-isolation, to avoid placing you and your business at risk of any unnecessary liabilities.
The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme covers a broad range of people who are required to self-isolate for different reasons such as having COVID-19, being at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and being directed to self-isolate by a medical practitioner, or even a household member of someone that is at high risk. Again, is important to note that this subsidy is only available to those people who are unable to work from home.
Further information on the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, who is eligible, and how to apply can be found through the following link: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/index.html