Covid-19 Update and Minimum Wage

Essential Update – 15th February 2022


In this update:

Red Light Phase Two

Close Contact Exemption Scheme - Critical Workers

Bubbles of One

Minimum Wage Increase


Red Light Phase Two

Effective from midnight tonight, but don’t worry too much – it has limited effect on businesses.  In fact, some of the isolation protocols can be more relaxed.  The biggest danger may be more staff choosing to isolate – and causing more absenteeism.

Broadly the requirements are:

  • anyone with symptoms must isolate and get a test
  • cases of confirmed Covid need to isolate for 10 days (with a testing regime)
  • close contacts need to isolate for seven days (with a test on day five).

What is really important is that If a close contact is vaccinated and asymptomatic, they may still be able to continue to work:


The link below will take you to MoH general guidance for Phases 2 and 3.

We are going to see some larger numbers of isolations and illnesses – we are going to experience real challenges in low numbers of staff at work – so if you have not already done so, now is a good time to put some basic Covid Policies in place so that everyone knows how to respond to expected scenarios.


Close Contact Exemption Scheme – Critical Workers

Those classified as Critical Workers may still be able to work during their isolation period, due to being a close contact, so long as they are able to return a negative RAT test each day of this period. These workers will only be allowed to go to work, nowhere else. All other isolation requirements will still stand.  Registered critical workers will be able to order tests (free as I understand) and collect from a collection point chosen on  They will need certain documents to be able to get them though, to show proof they are eligible.

A Critical Worker is someone who works in a critical industry, as broadly defined by the Government, who works in a role that the Employer has identified require specific skills where:

  • They are required to undertake their role in person at the workplace; and
  • They are in a role that must continue to be performed in order to prevent the immediate risk of death or serious injury to a person or animal, or to prevent significant serious harm (social, economic, physical) to the community.

Application to be recognised as a Critical Industry can be found here (you’ll have to set up a Business Connect account):

More information can be found here.


'Bubbles of one' for workers who are close contacts

  • At Phase Two and Phase Three of the Omicron response, any business or sole trader may have a worker who is a close contact on-site if this worker is not customer facing, and can maintain a ‘bubble of one’ while at work (including travel to and from work)
  • The requirements are that the worker:
    • is vaccinated
    • does not have any symptoms (asymptomatic)
    • is able to maintain an individual ‘bubble of one’ while at work (whether indoors or outdoors).
  • They are not required to use rapid antigen testing as part of this, nor are businesses required to register for 'bubble of one'.
  • At work, the worker must follow a number of guidelines that are set out on the same web page as the close contact exemption scheme above.
  • At home, the worker must self-isolate as per standard for close contacts, including testing if applicable

If you believe that you have staff who could work this way, make the arrangements now – how would the individual sit so as to be alone; what areas need special sanitisation protocols etc?  Make sure people understand – if necessary, document it in a procedure/policy.


Minimum Wage Increase

Believe it or not, the minimum wage is going up… again!

From 1st April 2022, the minimum wage will increase from $20.00 per hour to $21.20 per hour. This is a 6% increase! The training wage will also increase from $16.00 per hour to $16.96 per hour.

While it probably feels that the punches keep on rolling, this wage increase are in line with the annual CPI increase of 5.9%, as at December 2021.

You will need to ensure that you have updated your payroll systems by the 1st April to reflect these changes.

This will significantly affect your bottom line, but also, those who are currently being paid just above minimum wage. You may be faced with situations where you have staff who are currently on a slightly higher rate to reflect their extra responsibility and/or the length of service to the company. That gap will now close again, potentially leading to a need for you to review their rates as well.

Now may be a good time to think of reducing other employee-related costs in order to minimise the impact on your sales prices.  This may not be possible if you are already on minimums, and it may mean negotiations with staff, but there are often benefits to both parties in renegotiating agreements, for example in introducing more flexibility so as to more closely match hours worked with the needs of the business and of the individual.

If you want to talk through options, we can help.  This is one instance where some advance planning and budgeting may be essential.


Essential HR are here to help.  For ongoing help call us on – 03 3650532, or you can contact Mike directly on 027 2808546 or

I’m happy for you to pass this on to others.

And if you need to conference call, we are all set up with Zoom.

Need help managing staff?

Mike has a wealth of experience advising on every aspect of the employer-employee relationship. I can give you per-phone guidance or work along side you to make things happen.

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