Essential HR Update

Monday 5th October 2020

I think it is time you heard from me again – this time not really a focus on COVID, though I can’t keep away from it altogether!  But critically, there are changes to the process you need to use to help you get injured employees back to work asap and there is one important law change you need to be aware of.

In this Update:

Best Process when you have a staff member off work on ACC

Implications of the Privacy Act 2020

Expanded Eligibility for Covid-19 leave support

Extensions to Seasonal Work Visas


Best Process when you have a staff member off work on ACC

You may already know, but ACC will no longer allocate a dedicated Case Manager to look after individuals.  This is so that anyone at ACC can knowledgably assist with a case, but does mean you don’t get to develop a working relationship with them.  Instead they will usually assign someone as a Recovery Assistant, Co-ordinator or Partner (depending on the degree of difficulty) who will work with you.  These are generally employed by Fit For Work; APM or SRM, and you build your working relationship with them.

The process you should follow is:

  1. As soon as you have an employee off on ACC; they have provided you with a claim number; and they do not have a confirmed return to work date on their medical certificate, you should phone ACC, name the Employee and give the claim number and ask them to organise a Stay At Work Assessment.
  2. They should simply appoint a Recovery Assistant, who should make an appointment to come and meet you and your employee, ideally on site.
  3. This meeting should include them asking detailed questions about the injury and what the Employee can do (or can’t do) and seeing the actual working environment and understanding what physical tasks are needed.
  4. The Recovery Assistant then makes contact with the OT or Physio, determines a return to work plan that fits all (including you as the Employer) and gets the GP to amend the Med Cert to bring it in line with the plan.

I have seen this process succeed, where the return to work plan was in place and the employee starting to work their way back, within 48 hours of the initial meeting taking place.

This link takes you to the ACC infographic outlining their approach:

Strong recommendations from me:  do not delay in contacting ACC, once you know a return may take time and need managing; if you follow this process and seem to get nowhere, let me know – Fit For Work have been a client for some time and I am sure (for a fee) they can make something happen, even if it is an assessment that says there is no likelihood of a return to work soon.


Implications of the Privacy Act 2020

The new Act overall will make minimal differences (at least in the HR space) but there are some that you should be aware of:

  • The 12 Information Privacy Principles remain with some clarifications:
    • You are not allowed to collect information about an individual unless it is required for a purpose connected with a function of your business
    • If you collect information about a child/young person, not only must it be fair and lawfully collected, it must also be not unreasonably intrusive
    • Refusal to allow access to information includes for protection of individual or public health.
  • The new Act requires that you all appoint one or more Privacy Officer(s), who must have certain responsibilities (including encouraging compliance with Information Privacy Principles)
  • You will also have a responsibility for notifying the Commissioner of any Notifiable Privacy breach – where it is reasonable to believe that the breach has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to an individual or individuals. This can include unauthorised or accidental disclosure or loss/destruction of information.
  • It is quite clear that you remain responsible wherever the information is held or was collected and whether or not held by another agency (such as in the cloud).

This has very specific implications for a variety of HR matters:

  1. Are your application forms and joining forms only collecting information your business actually requires?
  2. Do you have strong controls in place over individual’s information that avoids a risk of others accidentally seeing it?
  3. Do you have a Privacy Officer and know what to do in the event of a breach (whether or not the individual complains?

This Act will take effect on 1 December.  Please note that I have only referred to some of the changes – this is designed as a guide, not legal advice.  If you want more guidance (including tutorials etc) check out the Privacy Commissioner’s Resources:


Expanded Eligibility for Covid-19 leave support

Covid-19 Leave Support (where MSD will provide funding for you if you have an employee who is required to be off work because of Covid-19 and who can’t work from home) will now include:

  • Those who have Covid-19 like symptoms and who meet the MOH criteria to self-isolate while waiting for test results;
  • Those directed to self-isolate by a Medical Officer of Health, their delegate or Health Practitioner (including if they have no symptoms and/or have returned a negative test);
  • Those with Covid-19 like symptoms who work in health, disability and aged care sectors who should be tested and isolate while waiting for test results; and
  • Parents/Caregivers of a dependant who is directed to self-isolate and needs support to do so safely

The period of the subsidy will match the general two-week self-isolation requirement. If further self-isolation is needed, the employer can apply for a further two-week payment. The weekly rate remains at $585.80 (full time) and $350 (part time), along with all other features of the scheme.

The scheme is expected to be needed and available for some time yet and is ever-changing to meet the evolving needs.

These most recent changes came into effect on Monday 28th September and are administered by MSD.

More information on the Leave Support Scheme can be found on the Work and Income website.


Extensions to Seasonal Work Visas

The Govt are putting a range of policy changes in place to fill labour shortages in key industries.  At this stage two key sectors being focussed on are Horticulture and Wine Growing.

Although it is likely that more New Zealanders will take up positions in these industries, there is still expected to be a labour shortfall during the seasonal peaks. Therefore, those in NZ with working holiday visas that are expiring will be allowed to stay here to fill short term horticulture and viticulture roles, when there are not enough NZers to do the work. This will be under the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa. It will be automatically given to over 11,000 working holiday visa holders with current visa expiry dates between 1st October 2020 and 31st March 2021.

Employers can take on these workers when there are unfilled Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces with an RSE employer; there are unfilled roles with an accredited SSE employer; or if the roles are in regions specified on a list that MSD are currently compiling.

Other work visa holders may also apply for an SSE visa if they have a job offer with any of the approved employers (as above).

Also, all RSE scheme workers who are stranded in NZ and were offered temporary non-RSE part time work will be able to re-enter the RSE scheme, with an average of 30hrs average pay guaranteed.


For ongoing help, contact Mike on 027 2808546 or or Beccy on or 027 2909070 – and if you phone our landline 03 659 0377 you can leave a message that gets delivered to us automatically. 

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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