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Covid-19 FAQs

Covid-19 FAQs

What are the payment rates for the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

  • $600 (gross) per week for people working 20 hours or more per week (full-time rate)
  • $359 (gross) per week for people working fewer than 20 hours per week (part-time rate)
The Wage subsidy will be paid as a two-week lump sum.
Please visit Work and Income for information on eligibility criteria and how to apply.

Who can get the Wage Subsidy?

To qualify:

  • your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • your employees must be legally working in New Zealand
  • the business must have experienced a revenue drop of at least 40% because of Covid-19 alert level changes.

For more information please visit Work and Income’s page. 

What are my obligations as an employer when applying for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme?

Before applying for this scheme, you must have discussed the application with the affected employee, obtained their consent, and agree they fall into one of the eligible groups. You should also have explored ways to support them (e.g. paid leave options such as existing sick or annual leave entitlements). Regardless of whether you applied for the previous Essential Workers Leave Support or the renamed Leave Support Scheme, the way you pay your employees has not changed:

  • You must try your hardest to pay the employee named in your application at least 80% of their usual wages or salary; or
  • If that isn’t possible, you must pay at least the rate of the Leave Support Scheme (unless the employee’s ususal wages or salary is lower, in which case to continue paying their usual wages or salary).

Who can get the COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment?

The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses (including self-employed) to help pay their people while thay wait for a COVID-19 test result. It’s to help businesses keep paying eligible workers:

  • who cannot work from home, and
  • need to miss work to stay home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result (in line with public health guidance).

If my employee is off work to get a COVID test, should I use their sick leave or The Short-Term Absence Payment to pay them?

The Short-Term Absence Payment should be used to cover the cost of workers who:

  • are entitled to paid sick leave; or
  • aren’t eligible for sick leave or have used up their paid sick leave.

If your employee has sick leave available and you are receiving the Short-Term Absence Payment, you should use this to pay their entitlement while they are waiting for a test result.

 

What are my obligations when I receive the Short-Term Absence Payment?

Normal employment law applies to all employment relationships – regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in. This includes anything that has been agreed to in an employment agreement. For more information about your obligations, head to Employment NZ.

Am I required to track my employees’ hours if they are working from home?

As your employees are still working their normal hours and being paid accordingly, there is no requirement to track this information separately in any way. Just record their hours the same as if they were at work.

My employee normally receives less than the wage subsidy amount each pay. Do I need to pay them all of it anyway?

If your employee’s usual wages are less than the subsidy, you must pay them 100% of their usual wages. Any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff.

I have employees that work variable hours. How do I work out whether they qualify for the full-time or part-time rate?

If your employee works variable hours, you can use an average to work out what rate to apply for. Use the average hours worked each week:

  • over the last 52 weeks, or
  • over the period of time you (or they) have been employed  (if it’s less than 12 months).

If the average hours are:

  • 20 or more, apply for the full-time rate
  • less than 20, apply for the part-time rate.

Do I have to pass on the Wage Subsidy to my employees?

Yes, you are required to pass on the Wage Subsidy to your employees. And if you can, it is expected that you top this up to 80% of your employee’s standard wages/salary.

How much can I get for the Short-Term Absence Payment?

If your application is approved you can receive a one-off amount of $359 for each eligible worker. This is regardless of whether they’re working full time or part time.

Can employees use their other leave entitlements during the lockdown period?

Employers and employees can agree to use an form of paid leave to cover their period of self-isolation. However, employees aren’t required to have used any or all their paid leave entitlements before they can receive the wage subsidy support paid to an employer.

Can I ask my workers to pay for their own masks during COVID-19?

Your are responsible for your workers’ health and safety at work. You must provide all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and make sure they use, wear and maintain the required PPE. This includes face coverings when required to do so under COVID-19 rules. Remember, face coverings required by COVID-19 rules and PPE required by health and safety at work law are different.

You cannot pass on the cost of providing PPE (in full or part) to the worker. You cannot make the worker provide their own PPE as a condition of employment.

PPE Guide for businesses

Contact record rule & face coverings

Does the employee continue to accrue annual leave while they receive the COVID-19 subsidies?

Yes. One of the obligations Work and Income states for receiving the Wage Subsidy is that you will not make any changes to your obligations under any employment agreement, including to rates of pay, hours of work and leave entitlement, without the written agreement of the relevant employee. No changes to leave entitlement should be made while receiving the subsidy. If we consider that annual leave accrual is the periodical accrual of annual leave which contributes to the employee’s annual leave entitlement, then we must continue to accrue leave for the hours that the employee was expected to work during the time they are receiving the subsidy. Anything less would indicate that the employer is not giving the employee their full leave entitlement.

 

Can I require that my workers get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Businesses cannot make individuals be vaccinated. However, businesses can require that certain work must only be done by vaccinated workers, where there is high risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 to others. The Government has also specified that certain work can only be performed by vaccinated workers.

For a business to decide that work is high risk and therefore needs vaccination for health and safety reasons, the business must first assess their COVID-19 exposure risk. This applies to work done by all workers, whether employees or independent contractors.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 provides details of which work the Government has specified can only be performed by vaccinated workers.

COVID-19 Public Health Response Order

COVID-19 Vaccination & Employment

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