The government has announced that New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 from 28 April 2020 for two weeks, at which time it will be reviewed. Under Level 3, people are required to work at home unless that is not possible. Workplaces can only open if:

  • Workers cannot work from home; and
  • Workplaces are operating safely; and
  • Customers are not allowed on premises; and
  • Businesses can trade without physical contact (eg online orders and delivery).

If employers have been unable to operate during the Alert Level 4 lockdown, they should have followed an employment process for staff who could not work. For those who cannot operate under Level 3 either, that status will, unfortunately, need to remain the same. If an extension to the current working and remuneration arrangements is required (or if a process was overlooked), this can be easily achieved with your staff. If you need to make a further change to your staff's remuneration arrangements, you will need to run a further process to put that in place.

For those who will be able to operate under Level 3, there are a lot of considerations. Health and safety arrangements need to be put in place before work starts, so planning needs to be underway, along with preparation of COVID-19 safety plans. It is possible that it might take time to build business up again and so employers may not require all staff to return at the same time. This might also be necessary to meet health and safety requirements. You will need to assess the best approach and, in many cases, consult with staff about that, particularly if it changes remuneration arrangements. It may also be a struggle to get some staff to come to work. This is something that essential services have had to deal with through the lockdown and there are a few ways to deal with this. It is important to think these issues through and to move quickly to start any process that you need to follow so you are ready to start work and / or return to the workplace, as soon as possible.

Alternatively, if you need to consider more permanent changes to staffing levels, that is something that can be addressed, including managing the inter-relationship with the wage subsidy. It is important to remember that a restructuring process needs to be followed for any redundancy, and that allowance, in your timeframes, needs to be made for the notice period.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.