PositivePeople June 30, 2021 No Comments

Do you have a high performing leadership team?

No matter how skilled and talented your individual leaders are, in this challenging time of uncertainty and change, their ability to collaborate and communicate as a team will be key in your overall business success.

In the current environment, with supply chain shortages, a constrained and highly competitive labor market, and gloomy global outlook, all your business leaders will need to work together to be responsive, proactive and ensure they make the right decisions for your business’s future.

Coming together is a beginning,

Keeping together is progress,

Working together is success.

Henry Ford.

So how well does your leadership team work together? Now is a good time to reflect upon the overall success of your group and take the right steps to ensure you have a high performing team to see you through these tough times.

Is your team?

  1. Clear about their group goals, which are tied to your business priorities?

Making sure they are all clearly headed in the same direction is an important starting point. Try asking your leaders individually what they think the team’s goals are – if they’re in sync, you should get similar answers from the group.

  1. Clear about their individual defined responsibilities aligned to these goals? 

What does each individual contribute towards these goals? To get your team really firing every leader needs to be clear about their role, the impact it has and to be excited and motivated towards doing what they can to help the team.

  1. Able to communicate clearly and respectfully?

The best place to test this is to observe your team in difficult discussions. Is everyone’s voice heard? Do they respect each other’s opinions and really get to the heart of the matter? Too often leadership teams shy away from tough discussions or allow the loudest voice to dominate. Without everyone’s voice being heard you can’t be sure you have reached the best possible solution, so respect and effective communication is critical.

  1. Trusting of each other, appreciating individual differences?

No two leaders are the same and no two leadership teams are the same. This diversity can be what makes your team really hum, but only if harnessed properly. A high performing leadership team trusts each other enough to be themselves, take risks, share ideas and support each other in hard times

  1. Able to celebrate their success as a team?

A business win is a win for the whole leadership team, and this should be recognized, especially in these unstable Covid times. Wins are hard fought and may not come often and it is important your team feel proud of their efforts and inspired to keep going.

Putting the focus on your whole leadership team’s combined efforts, success and effectiveness rather than individuals will strengthen your culture, improve the leadership team’s engagement and help alleviate stress as they feel more supported within your business.

For over 25 years Positive People have been helping businesses grow their leadership teams through an understanding and appreciation of individual differences as well as improving relationships. Our MBTI assessments and leadership team building sessions enable your leaders to work through differences of opinion and conflict successfully and take the necessary steps to be a high performing team.

Contact us today to learn more or checkout our website for more details.

 

PositivePeople June 30, 2021 No Comments

Sick Leave Changes – are you prepared?

What’s changing?

Minimum paid statutory sick leave entitlements will increase from 5 to 10 days as of 24 July 2021, effective from an employee’s next sick leave anniversary date. The maximum roll-over amount of unused sick leave remains unchanged at 20 days.

What do I need to consider?

You will have already considered any implications from a payroll perspective and no doubt you will be updating your employment agreement templates accordingly (if not and you need help, please let your Positive People consultant know).

It is also a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the sick leave management framework you have in place and ensure that your people leaders are well equipped in dealing with sickness absence.

How can I help my leaders?

  1. Reporting: Make sure you have a good system in place so leaders can:
    • view accurate, timely information
    • consider absence trends (e.g. particular shifts/days of the week)
    • identify if an employee is getting close to their maximum paid entitlement
  1. Sick leave management: Be clear with your leaders about the steps they should take when addressing sickness absence issues and the thresholds (likely unique for each scenario to reflect all the circumstances) for moving into more formal discussions. Your framework could look something like this:
    • Absence reports (see item 1) are reviewed by leaders and their manager every quarter to identify any areas of concern and determine the best approach
    • Return to work ‘check in’ discussions (see item 3) occur after every period of absence
    • Leaders are provided with guidance/coaching on how to have the ‘check in’ discussions and how to manage the more challenging situations e.g. requesting medical certificates, employees taking unpaid leave when sick leave is exhausted, considering changes to work/hours in consultation with the employee
    • Communicate with employees how sickness absence will be managed via your house rules or procedure
  1. Regular discussions: It is good practice to have ‘check in’ discussions with employees consistently on their return to work to:
    • ensure that the individual has recovered and is fit to be back in the workplace
    • identify any work-related issues that might need attention e.g. workload / interpersonal issues
    • provide an update on anything that might have occurred at work in their absence
    • foster positive, two-way communication and
    • demonstrate that you genuinely care about employee wellbeing
    • flag if there is a possibility you will move into more formal discussions.

Next steps

The vast majority of employees will continue to use their paid sick leave entitlement in a fair and honest manner, and there is no reason to suggest that this will change. Just be sure that your leaders are competent and confident to manage sickness absence in a fair, reasonable and supportive manner.

adminPPWP May 15, 2021 No Comments

Recruit well to win talent!

Right now, the quest to find and employ the best people in their field is very competitive. For you to secure the super star your business needs, business owners and managers need to be doing absolutely everything that they can to ensure that people out there want to come and work for your Company.

This means doing a lot of things well – having a great culture, an attractive employment brand, offering personal and professional training and development, and to be very, very, good at marketing your organization throughout your total recruitment process.

“Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions, and a healthy dose of curiosity.”

(Richard Branson.)

Many organisations develop what can be described as a good set of recruitment systems. However, over time and with staffing changes, these systems become watered down, corners are cut, ad hoc additions are made and the whole recruitment process becomes incrementally weakened. This can result in you only attracting average candidates, and then also missing selecting the best ones from that batch.

There is no need to spell out what the outcome will be and, repeated a number of times, what this does to your chances of lifting your organization into the top tier.

To employ the best a top recruitment process needs to be in place so that you are 100% sure you are getting talent.

Focusing on the essentials is a great starting point to review your process:

  1. Decide on a Company recruitment philosophy and incorporate it into your recruitment policy

Do all your employing managers know that you only employ the best every time there is a vacancy? Does everyone involved in recruitment understand the need to only aspire to employ the absolute best and have a clear picture of what “the best” looks like? Yes, sometimes compromises do have to be made. However, the point here is to ensure that those involved fully understand where you expect them to start from. This is about their mind set and setting high expectations at the outset

  1. Develop a Recruitment Policy

Having a formally issued recruitment policy signals the importance of this critical activity. The policy needs to be regularly reviewed and continuously communicated within the organisation. It should include points related to:

  • Company recruitment philosophy
  • Equal Employment Opportunity statement
  • Channels of attraction/sourcing
  • Merits of tests /personality profiling
  • Recruitment process
  • Job offers and employment agreements
  • Induction & on-boarding
  1. Review or Write a Position Description

Often, we ask the questions of whether a Position Description exists for a role and most usually the answer is “Yes”. We also frequently establish that the description is out of date, badly written and is not outcome focused. Make 100% certain that the Position Description that is going to be used to drive the recruitment is current and solid, and properly describes the role for which you will be recruiting.

  1. Think through the Person Profile

In addition to the skills, knowledge and competencies identified to successfully fill a role, it is important to reflect a little deeper and think through the amount of inter-action the role will have with others. For any role that has a fair amount of contact with others, be it through meetings or individual inter-actions, it is imperative to give consideration to what sort of personality characteristics the ideal person is likely to possess. Also, to consider the dynamics of the current group and think about what sort of personality would complement the team (and also what type of personality would create problems or not add value in the team). Person profiles can end up very long with generic descriptions, which are impossible to recruit against. Make sure yours are clear, succinct and really contain the key skills and personal characteristics of someone who will be a success.

  1. Carefully consider and choose the channels of attraction/sourcing for each role

Make sure that the sourcing channels used to find a new employee are appropriate for the role. Each role is different and a standard approach trotted out for every role may not be appropriate and can be a big waste of money. Consider networking, social media, internal incentives, referrals, internal advertising, SEEK and Trade Me advertising, industry publications and external consultants.

  1. Deliberately use the Position Description and Person Profile to evaluate each application

Make sure that these two documents remain top of mind when assessing applicant suitability for the role. Its easy to get side tracked as a candidate may have some other great skills, but they aren’t exactly what you need.

  1. Screen applicants via both a CV review and telephone screening

Rather than inviting Possibles into an interview straight away, screening Possibles via a brief telephone call can save a lot of time and effort. Using a few standard questions, the telephone screen quickly allows you to get a feel for a candidate’s suitability as well seeing if remuneration expectations align.

  1. Prepare for interviews by drafting a set of suitable questions

Put the time into preparing a set of questions that will be both standard for all those interviewed as well as relevant to the role. Frequently questions asked are done on the hop and are not well thought out or particularly probing. The interview is your chance to really find out a candidate’s suitability, so make the best use of the time by preparing well.

9 . A second interview is essential

It is imperative to conduct a second interview for a favored candidate as the second meeting allows the interviewer to see if first impressions still hold and also to view the candidate inter-acting in a more relaxed way. Depending on the role, a second interview also allows for more in-depth questions that are directly job related to be asked and for practical examples of transferable achievement in previous similar roles to be assessed. The all-important fit with the team and organization can also be explored in more depth.

  1. Consider a test or assessment of a favored candidate

For some roles, an on-site test can be very revealing and qualifies/disqualifies candidates simply. Personality assessments can be useful for more senior roles. Both tests and assessments provide more information for you to make a good recruitment decision.

  1. Reference checking provides external validation (or otherwise) of your impressions

Using a standard set of questions, with some role specific customization, allows for you to hear what others think of the suitability of your favored candidate for the role. Listen for subtle warning signs in their language as most referees will not want to directly provide negative feedback on ex-employees. This ability to read between the lines is an important part of the listening process in reference checking.

  1. Carefully consider your offer

Before making an offer, make sure that you are confident that the remuneration and conditions offered will be close to what the candidate expects. Whilst some negotiation is normal, ideally you would want your offer to be close to what the candidate would expect. This allows the new employee to join with a positive frame of mind, feeling valued before they start. If they have had to fight to get what they want (which you may have been happy to offer in the first place), it can create some dissonance before the employment relationship has even begun. Make sure that your Recruitment Policy spells out what the Company’s stance on pay rates is and ensure that offers reflect the intention of the policy.

  1. Issue the Employment Agreement quickly

Once you have made the decision to offer a job to an applicant, and have had the preliminary discussions/negotiations and have settled on the remuneration and conditions, move quickly to confirm the appointment by email, followed almost immediately by issuing the actual Employment Agreement. It often happens that tardy administration in this regard results in the favored candidate slipping away and accepting another offer. Then it can be all the way back to the drawing board. And often this second go at filling a role is hurried and conducted with less enthusiasm. Make certain that the Employment Agreement is signed and sealed prior to the start date.

  1. Induction and On-boarding really matter

Once the Employment Agreement has been signed, induction has pretty much started because in the new employee’s mind they project themselves forward and are already feeling associated with their new organisation. This means that any inter-action you might have with them from then on needs to be positive and reflective of your Company values. From there to the first few day’s introductions and orientation, and through the longer process of on-boarding, every step of the way needs to be professionally handled. This initial period in an organisation is critical and needs to be well organized.

If you need help with any aspect of your recruitment, we can help. Working with you, Positive People have over 25 years of recruitment success.

Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

 

PositivePeople January 27, 2021 No Comments

Developing an Annual HR Plan.

Your people determine your success. And HR exists to ensure that your people are best able to achieve your business goals.

In these times, just letting the people connected aspects in your business unfold as they do can have a negative impact on your business. All HR matters need to be thought about, positively steered and well managed to get the optimum out of your people and also to prevent and reduce all associated employment risks.

This is where having a clear and communicable HR Plan is essential.

An HR Plan gives direction, assures your staff that you value them, and allows for all the different aspects of HR that impact on your business to be effectively managed for best return. And, importantly, it sets up a great employee experience which is key to retaining your good people.

An HR Plan will usually include:

  • Key business goals
  • Identification of the key HR areas in your business that will support the achievement of your business goals. For example – HR Strategy, Recruitment, Communication, Engagement, Training and Leadership Development, Performance Management, Culture, HR policies, Resource planning, Remuneration
  • An objective associated with each of the identified areas
  • Prioritised actions to take
  • Assigned responsibilities
  • Deadlines
  • HR Plan communication
  • Monthly review process

With a solid HR Plan in place supporting your business objectives, you will be well set up to meet all HR challenges that arise head-on and ensure your business success.

Positive People is has over 25 years experience in developing and implementing HR Plans. Speak to us today. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

Use 2020 lessons to create a successful 2021!

Covid-19 hit us with a bang early in the year. Health, business and social effects are still a problem and a worry to all organisations.

This has lead us to reflect on this very unusual year and consider what we have learned and, critically, to work out what actions organisations need to take to ensure that they can survive and thrive in 2021.

What have we learned?

  • The health effects of Covid-19 have to be taken seriously
  • Government actions have a profound effect on the running of the economy
  • Every person is affected in some way
  • The Government aid packages have been of great assistance to many businesses
  • Many businesses have not survived
  • Many business owners and managers have had to absorb significant responsibilities and stresses of the year
  • Businesses have had to be resilient and prepared to do things differently
  • Flexibility, agility and innovation have leapt to the forefront of business survival
  • Remote working has become something for all organisations to get to grips with
  • Mental health and wellbeing has emerged as a “must have” focus
  • HR is not just about HR administration software and employment law compliance – it is much deeper and more relational
  • Regular communication and contact channels with your employees are non-negotiables
  • The importance and value of engaged and committed employees to organisations has never been higher

As an HR Consultancy servicing mainly medium-size businesses, over the last few months we have noticed a surge of enquiries from organisations wanting to develop and grow both individuals and teams, and to team-build. The importance of high performing dedicated and committed employees has never been more in focus.

This realization of the need to take positive steps to enhance individual performance and also creates a collaborative high-performance culture sets the scene for a successful 2021 HR strategy.

Amongst the top issues for a successful 2021 will be the quality of
HR in your business.

What HR things can you do to make sure your business survives and thrives in 2021?

  • Develop an HR strategy that has individual and group development, and collaborative teamwork at its core
  • Develop an annual HR plan that drives a disciplined approach to implementing the important People goals that you set
  • Review your communication channels with your employees. Are they properly set up and do they really work?
  • Ensure that you have groups set up for innovation and continuous improvement initiatives
  • Ask your team to let you know what you did well and what you could improve on in your 2020 Covid-19 response
  • Review the associations and partnerships that you have that potentially could help you out if further crises develop
  • Review/introduce Remote Work, Flexible Work and Wellness policies
  • Review your HR plan monthly to stay on top of these critical HR matters

2021 is just around the corner and the better prepared you are for what it may bring, the better you will both survive and be successful in your business.

Positive People have over 25 years’ experience guiding employers put in place HR initiatives that serve the business well. Call us today on 09-445 01277 to ensure you are well set up for a successful 2021.Teamwork

PositivePeople October 22, 2020 No Comments

Labour’s Landslide Victory = A Changing Employment Environment

Start now to think through the employment changes and challenges that will certainly confront you in the coming months.

The election was an historic one – Labour won 49% of the vote with a slam-dunk victory. This means Labour can choose to govern alone – the first time this has happened since New Zealand introduced a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system in 1993.

There are no doubt going to be many workplace challenges ahead – not least being able to afford the terms and conditions enhancements, as well as the ability to work constructively with Unions because it is a certainty that Unions will increasingly come to the fore in the next little while.

What does this mean for you? And what does it mean for workplace relations?

The Labour Party’s Workplace Relations and Safety policy is based on a principle that businesses and the economy will be boosted by supporting workers and valuing their contribution.

Specifically, Labour’s Workplace Relations policy commits to:

  • Increasing SICK LEAVE – from 5 days to 10 days; Labour plans to do this within the first 100 days.
  • Increasing WAGES and continuing to improve PAY EQUITY –the minimum wage will increase from $18.90 to $20 in 2021 and legislation will be introduced around pay transparency.
  • Legislate and implement FAIR PAY AGREEMENTS- fair pay agreements are industry-wide agreements set by Unions and employers that establish minimum terms and conditions for workers.
  • Strengthen key EMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION – changes to the HOLIDAYS ACT are planned to simplify leave calculations, and to allow sick leave and annual leave to be taken as it is accrued.
  • A MATARIKI PUBLIC HOLIDAY will also be introduced from 2022.
  • PROTECT VULNERABLE WORKERS – increasing protections for dependent contractors (dependent contractors are workers who are under the control of an employer but who do not receive the legal protections that are currently provided to regular employees); and, raising the age for workers to be allowed to perform hazardous work (from 15 to 16 years).

If you’re a business owner, it is important to start getting prepared now for these workplace changes.

  • Think through the quality of the relationships that you have with your employees. The closer you are to them the better. The more engaged they are with you and the organisation the better.
  • Consider what changes need to be made to your employment documents and processes (e.g. employee handbooks and employment agreements) to implement the changes to sick leave, the minimum wage, and the new public holiday. Think about the cost implications of these and start to factor this into your future wage budget.
  • The implementation of fair pay agreements may mean an increase in Union presence in your operating environment. Consider how to work constructively with Unions. Get prepared for this by learning about your industry’s Union now, ensure you have a good understanding of the number of Union members in your business, and gain a good understanding of what Fair Pay Agreements actually are.

There are many workplace changes and challenges on the horizon for businesses. The impact on your organisation, however, can be minimised by planning ahead, bring prepared, and putting in place actions now that will make for a smooth transition when these changes take effect.

 

 

PositivePeople September 16, 2020 No Comments

Time to reset your business plan!

With all the employment complexities surrounding Covid-19, it is fair to say that organisations are now operating in a very different commercial environment from 7 months ago.

Whilst your Vision, Values and Purpose may not have changed, your Goals may well have to be amended or tweaked to reflect the scrambled environment in which you are now operating. In one way or another your operating environment will definitely be different.

Have you re-assessed your goals?

Having some clarity on these is useful as a driver for the whole business, and especially important to provide focus for your employees.

If you want your employees on board, then they need to know where they are going.

  • Take an hour or two to reflect and decide on what your realistic short-term, medium-term and long-term goals now are
  • Decide on the priorities
  • Communicate these very clearly to everyone in the organisation
  • Involve at least your senior team in working out and planning how to achieve these new goals
  • Set short term actions that can be easily reset due to disruption
  • Cascade these plans down so that everyone feels they are individually playing an important part in keeping your business alive and successful

These new goals are a great opportunity to provide your team with a fresh challenge and to inject some much needed new enthusiasm and energy into your workplace!

A couple of hours on your goals will be well-spent and will pay big dividends by providing a simple and clear focus for all.

Positive People has over 25 years’ experience supporting businesses to develop business plans that get you the right results. Contact us now to learn more.

Safe Work from Home Guidelines

Safe Work from Home Guidelines

(Free Template)

 

Our workplace has been designed to provide you with a safe and comfortable work environment.  To ensure this extends to your home or other off-site office, you will need to review and comply with these guidelines.

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with our Health and Safety Policy, as your Health and Safety responsibilities extend to circumstances where you are working from home or at another off-site location.

 

Guidelines for Home Work Spaces

  1. Please click on the link and review the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use
  2. After ensuring that your home work space is compliant,  complete the checklist below
  3. We also require you to complete a hazards register for your home work space. This should list each hazard, outline the risk/potential harm and actions taken to eliminate, isolate or minimise the hazard
  4. Please then sign the acknowledgement page and return a copy of these guidelines to your manager along with a copy of your home workplace hazards register

It is your responsibility to ensure that you thoroughly read the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use and implement necessary changes to your home work space. The checklist below is a guide; however, it is assumed when checking each item that you have read and understood the relevant section of the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use. Any changes that need to be made to your home work space to meet the attached guidelines are to be carried out at your expense unless agreed otherwise with your Manager.

Once the agreement has been signed, it will be assumed that the relevant safety precautions have been taken and will be maintained by you. Please maintain the hazards register, adding any new hazards as they are identified and putting measures in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise each hazard.

 

Home Work Space Checklist

Please check each item once you have read the relevant section of the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use and ensured that your home work space is compliant.

 

Key considerations for your home work space Tick
Suitable chair with back support and at the correct height with footrest (if necessary)
Suitable keyboard in correct position
Suitable mouse in correct position
Suitable computer screen at correct height, distance, and position
Adequate lighting for work tasks
Adequate sized work surfaces
Safe and suitable storage for materials
Work space not situated near loud and/or repetitive noise
Adequate heating/cooling and ventilation
Surrounding electrical equipment including cables safely installed, secured and in working order
Suitable physical location of work space within the home – ideally a separate room or area with adequate separation from high-risk and/or high-traffic areas (e.g. kitchen)

 

Other considerations (please include in your hazards register):

  • Is there a working smoke detector?
  • Is a fire extinguisher readily available?
  • Is a basic first aid kit readily accessible?
  • Are exits from the work area clear and unobstructed?
  • Are there any tripping hazards?
  • Are all floor coverings safe and non-slip?
  • Are there appropriate handrails on any stairs?
  • Are any young children adequately supervised by another adult?

 

Employee Acknowledgement

I hereby acknowledge that I have read and understood these Safe Work from Home Guidelines and the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use. In addition, I have made the necessary adjustments to my home work space in compliance with the guidelines set out in these documents and have completed a hazards register for my home work space.

 

Employee Name ____________________________________________________________________________

Address ___________________________________________________________________________________

Signed____________________________________________________________________________________

Date______________________________________________________________________________________

Employer COVID-19 FAQs – issued 19 March 2020

Question: What is the process from an HR perspective if my business needs to close temporarily?

Businesses may need to close temporarily for a range of reasons. It’s possible that the government will enforce a lock-down. Or, there may be a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at your workplace and several of the team required to self-isolate, causing an operational disruption requiring closure. In addition, some businesses/industries have been so immediately impacted (e.g. by large contracts being suspended) that they need to close. If your business needs to partially or completely shut down temporarily due to the pandemic, we recommend that you go through a condensed consultation process with impacted employees.

This involves proposing your plan to employees, seeking their feedback, confirming your final decision/plan and then implementing the change. This can all be done within a short timeframe if required. If the closure needs to happen immediately, this consultation process can be carried out in the course of a single meeting or over a one- or two-day period.

In the case of temporary closure, you can seek to suspend employees’ duties or request they undertake alternate duties or work from home or another location. If suspended, it may be agreed that the employee first takes annual leave. After that, they may transfer to unpaid leave or you may come to another arrangement if your business is financially in a position to do so. We advise businesses to err on the side of generosity and try to allow for some special paid leave wherever possible – our experience suggests that you will be rewarded with the loyalty and support of your employees in the long run.

We recommend you first find out what wage subsidies may be available as this will be important to know prior to coming up with your proposal and talking to your people. You can find that information here.

While it is reasonable to run a shortened process in the case of an enforced immediate business closure, good documentation will reduce your risks and also ensure that your employees fully understand what is happening and why. Outlining the business case, plan and outcome in writing will allow employees to take this information home and digest it properly, as well as seek support and advice from friends and family.

Check your Individual Employment Agreements for a Force Majeure or Business Interruption clause – if you have one included, ensure that you are honouring these terms and conditions as a minimum and refer employees to the clause in your communications.

If you need assistance with documentation and running meetings, Positive People are available to help. 

 

Question: Should I have people working from home wherever possible?

Yes, wherever possible. Social distancing is the right thing to do, so we recommend following government advice and having people work from home if you can.

We have also heard of some creative solutions for reducing the risk in the workplace. For example, splitting the team into two and asking them to only attend the workplace on alternate days, and work from home the other days. This reduces the number of people in the office and would halve the amount of people exposed if someone becomes unwell.

 

Question: What should I do if my employees have children at school or daycare/kindergarten who are impacted by closures?

If you have a smaller business, you can approach this situation on a case-by-case basis but for larger businesses you need to think about precedent and fairness, so may need to decide on an approach that can be applied to all staff in the case of school and pre-school closures.

The first thing to consider is whether the employee can carry out some or all of their duties from home – or whether they can pick up alternate duties that can be completed from home. If you can accommodate the employee working from home, other things to agree include working hours, availability for phone calls and virtual meetings and/or required outputs. If the children are young there may be a requirement to be flexible with hours (e.g. some hours worked on the weekend when other carers are available, early in the morning or late at night) or reduce hours.

In the event that the employee cannot work from home (either due to the nature of their work or because their children are young and require constant supervision), you may agree that they should use annual leave first, and then transfer to paid special leave and/or unpaid leave.

 

Question: What are my obligations if an employee is advised to self-isolate?

In this circumstance you can apply for the government COVID-19 leave payment to pass on to them. Information on the payment and process is here. You may also choose to partially or fully top up this payment. However, you should also consider other alternatives, such as working from home. If you are unable to offer a top up and the employee has enough sick and annual leave balance available, you may agree for them to use this instead.

If an employee is required to self-isolate but they still want to attend work, you must tell them to stay away from the workplace and comply with the self-isolation directive. Allowing the employee to return to the workplace when they are subject to the self-isolation directive may constitute a breach of your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Likewise, if they become unwell (but are not under a self-isolation directive) but still want to come to the workplace.

If an employee comes to work when sick or in breach of the self-isolation directive, you may consider that this constitutes serious misconduct, being a breach of a lawful instruction and a breach of their employee health and safety obligations.  Following a full and fair process, this may warrant disciplinary action.

 

Question: What should we do if one of our employees lives with or has been exposed to someone who is ‘self-isolating’ due to travel, illness or exposure?

Again, smaller businesses may be in a position to take a case-by-case approach to this. This would allow you to take all relevant factors into account and agree on the best solution. However, if you have a larger business you will need to decide on the best approach and communicate this to your team.

Some businesses have decided that if an employee has any exposure to someone in self-isolation they must stay away from the workplace for 14 days. This scenario may not be covered by the government COVID-19 leave allowance but may be covered by the government wage subsidies. Alternatively, you may agree on the use of annual or sick leave, or offer some paid special leave where possible.

 

Question:  Can I require employees to work from home?

You are entitled to ask an employee to work from home.  You will have to provide the necessary equipment/systems, such as a computer, mobile phone, relevant software access etc. In some cases, employees may agree to work from home and offer to use their home equipment. In this case you may choose to come up with some form of compensation – for example, a contribution to the monthly wifi and phone bill.

It is important to note that as the employer you still have various health and safety obligations to the employee when they are working from home.  As such, it is important to ensure that you have up to date policies regarding working from home safely. Even if they have previously been provided, it’s a good idea to re-send them and request a confirmation of receipt if the employee has not worked from home before.

 

Question:  How do I treat leave applications for an overseas holiday made prior to 15 March 2020?

If an employee made an overseas holiday application prior to the Government’s self-isolation directives on 14 March 2020, you can instruct them to take unpaid leave for the duration of the self-isolation period on their return, after first considering other alternatives such as working from home or other leave entitlements.

If you want to request an employee not to proceed with the holiday, you may consider compensating the employee for a proportion of their holiday booking fees. Hopefully this is a relatively rare event given the travel restrictions now in place across the globe, and MFAT advice for New Zealanders to return home from overseas travel as soon as possible. In addition, airlines and hotels are allowing for deferred travel arrangements in most cases.

 

Question:  How do I treat leave applications for overseas travel made after 14 March 2020?

Given current travel restrictions and advice, it is unlikely you will receive applications for overseas holidays. However, there may be circumstances where employees want to travel – for example, to attend a wedding or funeral. Regardless, you should advise employees that leave applications will be treated more strictly due to the restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

You may choose to communicate that annual leave for the purposes of overseas travel will only be approved in very rare circumstances, and that you will have to reach an agreement regarding the management of any self-isolation period upon their return.  You can also advise that if an employee proceeds with overseas travel without your agreement, this may constitute serious misconduct.

Of course, you are entitled to deny an overseas leave request on operational grounds if you cannot accommodate both the holiday and any self-isolation period required on return.

 

Question: What should we do about work-related national and international travel?

Remain aware of the Ministry of Health’s travel advice, which is regularly updated. You must consider this in relation to your health and safety obligations and make a decision from there.

At the time of writing, international travel is not recommended at all and as such employers have cancelled or postponed all overseas travel. If you still have people overseas on work-related travel you will no doubt be assisting them in coming home.

You may also decide that work-related national travel (via airline) only take place where it is considered essential and where it is agreed by the employer and employee.

 

Question:  How should I respond if an employee is concerned about contracting COVID-19 at work?

If an employee advises you that they believe they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 by attending work, you must consider the basis for the employee’s concerns. We know that for many, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing high levels of stress and anxiety. This is a very real and genuine wellbeing concern. Furthermore, some employees may be particularly vulnerable due to age, pregnancy or pre-existing conditions, or be worried about a family member who is. As an employer, it is important to show support, compassion and look for solutions.

If you agree that the employee’s concerns are reasonable, then you must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of your employees, such as limiting meetings (or reducing attendees), moving work stations to increase distances between them, and implementing hygiene policies.

The employer and employee may agree to vary the employee’s duties or location of work in order to address the employee’s concerns.  Where practical, you could allow the employee to work from home for a reasonable period of time.

 

Question:  What do I need to do if an employee is exposed to or contracts COVID-19?
If an employee has been exposed to or contracts COVID-19 and has attended the workplace prior to diagnoses, you must first work with Healthline (call 0800 358 5453) to determine what actions you need to take. This is likely to include immediate closure while you assist in identifying close contacts and working with Healthline on advising them on steps for testing and self-isolation. You will also need to seek advice on cleaning the workplace prior to people returning to work. Any employee who has contracted COVID-19 must not return to work until they are cleared by a health professional.

In terms of how you treat the period of absence for anyone who has contracted COVID-19, contractual sick leave or the government-provided COVID-19 leave could kick in. Taking the government COVID-19 leave does not impact on an employee’s sick leave balance – these are separate entitlements. Employees do not have to take any or all of their contractual leave before becoming eligible for COVID-19 leave. Different forms of leave can be taken concurrently, but as the employer you are not required to pay the employee more for that time on leave than what you would have otherwise had the employee worked.

However, in the event that the employee has been exposed to or contracted COVID-19 at work, we recommend that wherever possible, you ensure that the employee is paid no less than they would normally be paid for the period of self-isolation or illness.

 

Question: What should I do about my upcoming conference / training or other work-related event?

If the event is overseas or would involve a large number of people gathering inside (more than 100), it should be deferred.

If the event is in New Zealand but requires travel for participants, you should seriously consider deferring it if possible. With the possibility of a government enforced lock-down of workplaces, it may be more cost effective to postpone the event now than to wait until the last minute.

If the event is local and does not require travel, check for the latest guidance for small events and make a decision from there. Keep in mind that attendance is likely to be lower than usual if you go ahead. People may choose not to attend due to their own wellbeing concerns, their own company policies (if they do not work for you), childcare responsibilities (if schools close), self-isolation and illness – bear in mind that common colds are likely to increase as the weather cools but people are advised to remain vigilant and stay at home if unwell.

 

Question:  I may need to downsize the business due to the economic impact of COVID-19. What is the process?

As the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to worsen, you may be in the difficult situation of needing to seek to reduce expenses by restructuring your business and implementing redundancies.

As with any restructure, employees must be advised of the proposed changes, and their feedback must be considered before any changes are made.  However, given the nature of the economic impact from COVID-19, it would be reasonable for the timeframe for this consultation to be shortened significantly.

Although inevitable in some situations, redundancy should be a last resort. Be sure to consider alternatives such as voluntary redundancies, reductions in hours (again, some people may volunteer), reductions in pay, changes in roles and locations. You may also agree on leave arrangements – for example, you may agree that employees use one day of annual leave per week until their balance reaches zero, before transferring to one day per week of unpaid leave.

As with temporary closures and suspensions, ensure that you are up-to-date with government wage subsidy offers prior to coming up with your change proposal.

 

Question: I have offered an overseas candidate a job and they have a visa application pending or they have a visa approved and were booked to travel to New Zealand. Can they still come?

UPDATED: At 2.40pm on Friday 20 March we received the following update from Immigration New Zealand:

You will be aware that the Government has put in place new restrictions at the border. We realise many employers have additional immigration-related concerns now that most foreign travellers cannot enter New Zealand.

The Government has further strengthened border travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers from 23.59 on Thursday 19 March 2020.

The current temporary border measures

Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand for:

  • humanitarian reasons
  • health and other essential workers
  • citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
  • the holder of a visitor visa who is the partner or dependant of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand.

No other foreign traveller can enter New Zealand. Returning residents and citizens must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.

Visa processing information

INZ’s Beijing, Mumbai and Manila offices are temporarily closed. INZ remains committed to minimising the impact on visa processing times.

Residents with expired travel conditions cannot travel to New Zealand. They may apply for reinstatement of resident visa travel conditions.

INZ cannot extend visa durations. Visa fees or levies paid for completed applications will not be refunded or deferred for another visa. Applicants may withdraw an undecided application

 

 

19 March 2020