New imposed COVID‐19 alert level 3, creating tremendous and unprecedented interruption to businesses and lives. Many employers have to strive to discover ways to efficiently work from residence while others have been inadequate to move at all. This will leave many businesses to have some important but tough arrangements to execute.
Government announcements following COVID-19 alert Level 3, states that if you can manage your business at home using alternative working forms, then you must proceed to do so. If you run a business where operating from home is not feasible, for instance retail or hospitality related business, you may be permitted to resume at Level 3, with guideline that there is no physical contact with the clients. All operations will need to be performed via the online system and using delivery or collection acts without physical connectivity.
As a business owner, you are obligated, by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, to reduce health and safety challenges to your employees. Where you have workers getting back to the workplace at Alert Level 3 this indicates putting systems into effect to minimize the COVID‐19 risk transmission in the workplace. As well as you are required to keep a record of workers and clients who are visiting the workplace, implement strategies that help reducing physical contact, enhance cleaning and hygiene practices with proper rest breaks. You should make sure that your workers have all the essential equipment they need to perform functions remotely.
If your workers are operating from home you still have responsibilities under the HASAWA to ensure that pandemic risks are decreased.
Modifications to a worker’s terms and conditions can only be made via proper consultation with the worker and in accordance with the law of employment. As with many situations of employment, good faith and open communication are pivotal to obtaining a successful outcome, as well as a legally required one. If you believe that you cannot afford your workers with their typical working hours you should negotiate your employees, providing them the possibility to examine and reply to any proposed modification before determinations are made. It is also noted that where alterations to an employee’s terms and conditions of work are made those modifications are documented and signed.
COVID‐19 Wage Subsidy
Requirements for employment law have not been put on hold because of the current pandemic.
The NZ Government is assisting businesses who are facing challenges, and who are watching into redundancy options, to think to utilize the COVID‐19 Wage Subsidy to keep employers employed during this lockdown. If you are considering redundancies, while you have obtained the Wage Subsidy, remember that you may have provided a declaration that carried a liability to retain employees for the three months wage subsidy period. If you have accepted the Wage Subsidy, and established that declaration, then work in good faith would most likely need you to keep the workers on their positions for the required duration of the wage subsidy period.
Get Employment Consultation
It is vital to note that your responsibilities as an employer have not altered. Any arrangements regarding your workers must be made following discussion with your workers and following laws of employment. If you are concerned about the consequences of COVID‐19 on your company and what it could mean for your workers, we recommend that you talk to one of our employment law expert.