Covid-19 – Preparing for Level 3
Monday 28th August 2021
In this Update:
I am longing for level 2, when I can start having contact with folk again, but for the moment, I can work from home, so under level 3 that is what I understand I must do!
For you it may be very different though, and this time round we have some much clearer guidance that may help if you are unsure. Have a look at: https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/operating-at-alert-levels/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=COVID_19_Special_Edition_Business_Travel_August_27_2021&utm_content=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.business.govt.nz%2Fcovid-19%2Foperating-at-alert-levels%2F
Business.govt.nz have put together a quite comprehensive table showing the impact of levels 4, 3 and 2 on a wide range of different business types. You may find you have to do things differently for different parts of your business. Even if this page doesn’t answer your questions, perhaps it will lead to more focused questions.
This will not affect most of my clients, but here is some important guidance if you need to cross a Covid level boundary for work purposes. You will need new authority. Here’s the link to registering for a travel authority https://services.businessconnect.govt.nz/
Teachers and support staff across all early learning services, kōhanga reo, kura, and state and state-integrated schools can now access free COVID-19 Employee Assistance Programme support. Refer https://www.education.govt.nz/covid-19/workforce-wellbeing-package/ for details. Very much something you may need to offer if you are having to make anyone redundant or reduce pay during this time.
Jacinda indicated yesterday that the subsidy would be available in two-week blocks, so for those who applied for the first two weeks from Wednesday 18th, if you still cannot operate at level three you will be looking at needing to apply for the next two weeks. Same site as for the first two weeks.
There are only a few questions that are coming up with any regularity – perhaps not surprisingly most people’s questions have been quite specific to themselves. A couple of items I thought it worth bringing to your attention:
- Can you claim a subsidy for a casual employee?
- If they are generally working a minimum number of hours each week, then yes, you would be entitled to claim the subsidy and have an obligation to pay them (in fact you should probably be considering changing their employment status to permanent part-time); however, if they are genuinely casual they probably don’t qualify under the eligibility that says they must be employed through the full two weeks of the subsidy. This is because a genuine casual‘s employment starts and stops with each piece of work they are engaged for.
- If you have agreed with the casual that they were to be working for a three-week job that started just before lockdown then you would be entitled to the subsidy for them as that three-week period would include the full subsidy period.
- Is it OK simply to pay my staff at 80%?
- You cannot unilaterally simply change what you pay your staff. The guidelines we are given are very clear that the normal employment relationship obligations do not change because of a lock down. But yet the Wage Subsidy declaration states you must use best endeavours to pay at least at 80%. So clearly there is an expectation that some employers, at least, will pay no more than that.
- So, if you intend to pay less than 100% you need to have involved your staff in reaching that decision:
- If you have a temporary relief clause or a force majeure clause in your employment agreements, you need to consult your staff before applying it to support your drop in pay;
- If not, you need to explain to your staff why you honestly feel you cannot afford to keep paying them at 100% and ask them to agree to pay at 80% (or the subsidy level if that is higher). Ask them to agree by return email or by singing something.
- If they do not, then you’d have to run a change process to force the issue, but reports I get back are that in general staff are quite understanding. And in fairness their expenses will be down during lockdown anyway.
If you have specific questions that come to mind as a result of this, please email me – the chances are that others have them too, and I will send regular updates for a few days anyway.
Essential HR are here to help. For ongoing help, contact Mike on 027 2808546 or firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 03 3650532 – our landline is not monitored, but all messages are immediately emailed to us, so we can still respond reasonably quickly – apologies for any delays in reaching us on cell phones.
I’m happy for you to pass this on to others.
If you need to conference call, we are all set up with Zoom.