Workforce Planning and the Prospect of Restructuring

Workforce Planning and the Prospect of Restructuring

* Last Updated 14 April 2020



Over the past 4 weeks we have all become somewhat accustomed to constant and rapid change. We’ve learnt pretty quickly to take a step-by-step and day-by-day approach to avoid wasting time and energy on plans that quickly become irrelevant.


But, having dealt with the blow of the lockdown, the time has come to get ready to adapt and adapt again. Having contingency plans in place will be essential for you to navigate the next 12-18 months by being nimble and flexible.


A good starting point is to map out at least three possible scenarios – perhaps starting with a best case, worst case and a middle ground. These might include:

  • Best case – Level 3 after 4 weeks of lockdown. Reverting to level 2 the following week. No further lockdowns eventuate. Borders remain closed, but non-essential national travel re-starts in June. Government stimulus packages are relatively successful and the economy, including your industry, shows promising signs of recovery.
  • Middle – Lockdown is extended to 6 weeks. The country remains at level 3 for an additional 6 weeks, with some businesses needing to remain closed. National non-essential travel is restricted on and off throughout the year, there are regular school closures and occasionally it looks like another lockdown is possible.
  • Worst case – NZ returns to Level 3 after 4 weeks but it’s too soon or community transmission of Covid-19 has sprung back under the radar. After a few weeks at Level 3, another lockdown is announced and this one continues for another 6 weeks. After that, Level 3 with heavy restrictions for a further 6 weeks. Your business is unable to open properly at Level 3 but can operate to a limited extent on-line, but your industry has been heavily impacted. Sales are virtually non-existent.

Now think through what impact each scenario will have on your workflow and cashflow. Then, how will you need to change or downsize your workforce to match this footprint? What will be the triggers (sales figures, production levels, cashflow) that will force you to look at headcount reduction? Consider how you can avoid ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – where you need to downsize, will it be possible to make a more significant change to avoid constant redundancies and hours reductions.



Having completed the planning, you should have a clearer idea of the conditions and thresholds that may necessitate a change process. Or, in some cases, it may be clear that you already need to consider the prospect of restructuring your organisation and reducing your employee numbers. This is a complex and difficult process.

Here is a step-by-step overview of what you will need to do next:

  1. Plan
  • First, you will need to write a business case for why you believe change is required. Include important details such as sales figures and projections.
  • Next, write a communication plan – who is potentially impacted by this proposed change and how will you communicate with them? Individually, team meetings or a company-wide briefing? Will anyone be on leave during this time? How and when will you communicate with them?
  • Finally, get your ducks in a row. Review Individual Employment Agreements, read Job Descriptions, pull payroll information to double check details such as pay, titles and hours. Run a risk assessment for each – is the role you are considering to be disestablished similar to another role in the business? If so, do both employees need to be included in the consultation process as two positions becomes one?


  1. Consult
  • Draft up letters for all affected employees. The letter must:
    • Explain the proposed change
    • Outline the proposed impact to their particular role
    • Give the reasons for this proposed change
    • Say what will happen to them if the change goes ahead
    • Include the details for how the employee can submit feedback and the deadline for this
    • Either propose a time for a meeting to hear feedback, or offer the opportunity for the employee to book a meeting if they want to ask questions or provide verbal feedback
    • Emphasise that no decision has been made, and that this won’t happen until you have received their feedback
    • Give details of a proposed timeline. Seek feedback on this as well
  • Hold your consultation meetings.
    • Ideally, where only a small number of people are impacted and redundancy is a possibility you will hold these face-to-face. You can set this meeting up ‘informally’ by simply inviting the employee to a meeting, but we recommend that you let them know that what you need to discuss may impact their role, and that they are welcome to bring a support person – allowing them time to arrange this. In large company-wide restructures, and with the Covid-19 restrictions, this will not always be possible.
    • Ideally, read through the letter
    • Answer initial questions, but try not to get into receiving feedback in this meeting
  • Hold feedback meetings. Often questions will be raised at these meetings. If you don’t know the answer, commit to coming back with it as soon as possible. You must remain open, honest and communicative throughout. If you take too long to respond to questions or do not answer them at all, you risk an argument that the deadline for feedback should be extended.


  1. Consider Feedback
  • It is important to consider feedback in good faith. If, as a result of the feedback, you want to make changes to the proposal you need to decide whether to go back and consult on the new proposal.
  • Give yourself time to adequately consider feedback – usually 48 hours
  • If you’ve received a lot of feedback from numerous employees, group it into themes and write out your response to each ‘thread’ and any changes to the proposal made as a result


  1. Confirm
  • Having considered any feedback and made a decision, you need to draft up a second letter outlining your decision. This should include:
    • A summary of feedback received and your response
    • Any changes made to the proposal as a result of the feedback
    • What your final decision is, and the outcome for the employee’s role, including timing. If applicable, you may include details around final pay
    • If redeployment is an option or a selection process will follow, provide the details for this
    • Consider what outplacement support you can offer and outline this in the letter – this could include career coaching, assistance with writing a CV, an interview technique workshop, and financial planning resources.

Change processes can be very complex and are difficult for everyone involved. Emotions are likely to run high and it is so important that you get it right. Positive People can help. Email us at or call 09 445 1077 for a confidential discussion.

More COVID-19 FAQs Answered Here (issued 3 April 2020)

Issue #2: More COVID-19 FAQs Answered Here


Question: Do I need to consult or get agreement to reduce pay?

The COVID-19 lockdown is an unprecedented event, and there are differing views about whether you need written agreement to a pay reduction, or if you only need to consult. It is generally agreed that a unilateral pay reduction with no consultation is a high risk strategy. We recommend running a short consultation and seeking written (email or text) feedback or agreement prior to confirming the temporary change to terms and conditions. You can also use this opportunity to have employees indicate in writing if they would like to ‘top up’ their pay by taking some annual leave (e.g. one day per week).


Question: Can we use annual leave balances to top up the wage subsidy?

If you are passing on the wage subsidy, employees may agree to take Annual Leave to top up the subsidy. Likewise, if you have reduced pay to 80%, they may request or agree to take one day Annual Leave per week to maintain 100% pay. You may also direct an employee to take Annual Leave, but you must first try to reach agreement. If agreement can’t be reached, you must give 14 days’ notice and it must be from the Annual Leave ‘entitlement’ – you cannot direct an employee to use their ‘accrued’ balance.


Question: If I accept the wage subsidy can I make people redundant during this period if things change?

You need to try your best to retain your employees you are currently receiving the wage subsidy for. If you applied for the wage subsidy for any employees after the scheme was modified at 4pm on 27 March 2020, you must retain those employees or you will be in breach of your obligations. The WINZ website states that if you breach your obligations by making someone redundant you need to repay the subsidy within five days.


Question: What are the options if someone has signed an employment agreement but haven’t started work yet?

If you have offered someone work and they have accepted, they have the same rights as other employees – even if they haven’t started working for you yet. You can apply for the wage subsidy and pass this on from after their start date. Just like with current employees, you need to consult if you wish to change their terms and conditions (reduce hours and/or pay) or make them redundant. If you have a Business Interruption clause in your agreement, you may choose to invoke this. But remember, even with this clause you must ask for feedback before confirming suspension without pay.


Question: What happens if an employee was due to return from parental leave during the lockdown period?

Similar to the above, if this was the agreed date for the employee to return to work you must proceed with that plan. Therefore, you can apply for the wage subsidy for this employee and pass it on to them from their planned return date. You should still consult with the employee prior to confirming any changes to pay or hours during the lockdown period – even if they haven’t returned to work yet.


Question: An employee had an overseas holiday booked to take place during the lockdown and had Annual Leave approved. Now they want to retract that request (we are not an essential business) but I want them to take the Annual Leave. Can I enforce that?

Technically you can, but for fairness and simplicity, many employers have wiped all Annual Leave requests from the start of the lockdown and will review this at the end of the initial 4-week lockdown period.


Question: Can/should casuals qualify for the wage subsidy and be paid something during the lockdown?

Yes, they can – you use average weekly hours to calculate the amount. However, as casuals should have no expectation of ongoing work and you have no obligation to offer it, technically you don’t need to apply for and pass on the subsidy. If you review a casuals average hours and decide to apply for the wage subsidy scheme on their behalf, you should also consider whether they are a true casual. If they regularly work a pattern of hours and could reasonably expect this to be ongoing, they may be considered ‘permanent’. An important definition if you need to restructure down the track.


Question: What are the potential scenarios where we might be at risk of having to pay back the wage subsidy to the government?

You need to repay some or all the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy if:

  • You no longer meet the criteria for the subsidy
  • You’re not meeting your obligation to use the subsidy to retain and pay your employees,
  • You’ve received insurance (eg, business continuity insurance) for any costs covered by the subsidy
  • You have provided false or misleading information in your application.

You can check the obligations here.

Obligations if you applied before 4pm on 27 March

Obligations if you applied on or after 4pm on 27 March

You can also make a repayment if you were overpaid or made a mistake on your application.


Question: Did the minimum wage increase go ahead? I’m worried that I won’t be able to access the system to make the changes.

The adult minimum wage rate increased $1.20 from $17.70 to $18.90 per hour on 1 April 2020. However, MBIE recognises that some employers may not be able to action the increase immediately, while also complying with lockdown requirements. If you cannot process the raise in time, you should communicate with your employees about this. You should then process the increase as soon as you are able to do so in compliance with any COVID-19 restrictions in place. You will need to pay employees back for any hours that were worked, but for which the required pay rate could not be processed at the time.


Question: Does the wage subsidy always need to be passed on in full?

Not always. If your employee’s usual wages are less than the subsidy, you must pay them their usual wages. Any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff.


Question: Can I reduce an employees pay if they’re on minimum wage but can’t work? What happens when they come back to work – partially or fully?

During the lockdown and beyond, you must still pay workers for the work they do. This means employees—regardless of whether they are working from home, or from premises to do essential work—must be paid at least the new minimum wage for each hour they work. If the employee cannot work during the lockdown and does not wish to use any Annual Leave entitlements, you can access the wage subsidy and pass this on in full without topping it up to minimum wage for the employees normal hours, or requiring the employee to do any work. You should still follow a consultation to implement this reduction in pay.


Question: What should employees be paid for the public holidays over Easter?

For employees who would have otherwise worked on the public holiday (had the lockdown not been in place and had not been a public holiday), then they should be paid for that public holiday at their relevant daily pay as set out in the Holidays Act. If the employees pay has recently been reduced, then the relevant daily pay rate is this reduced pay rate – unless otherwise agreed with them. We know some employers who have reduced pay are choosing to pay public holidays at the employees ‘normal’ full pay.


Question: How do we manage pay for staff returning to work on reduced hours – specifically the point at which we have to ‘top up’ the wage subsidy (if the wage subsidy is what we are currently paying)?

Employees must be paid for any hours worked at a minimum – however, the wage subsidy can go towards this pay. However, many employees who cannot work and have taken a pay reduction during the lockdown, will expect to be paid more when they return to work. How you manage this is really going to depend on what pay reduction you have applied, and the hours worked on return. We think it all comes down to communication. If you think that pay reductions will need to remain in place even when employees return to work (either at normal or reduced hours) it is important that you communicate this possibility early and then consult with employees fully when the time comes.


Question: What are our H&S obligations when people do start returning to work?

Employee safety is paramount. It is likely that when employees return from the lockdown changes will need to be made to the way you work to keep everyone safe. We will be looking to government advice when the time comes and implementing all recommended measures (e.g. social distancing) as a minimum. We also recommend the following:

  • If you don’t have a Health and Safety Manager, appoint one person to be the COVID-19 co-ordinator. Communicate this person (ideally a senior manager) as the first point of contact for any related matters
  • Identify your risks and work to eliminate, isolate or mitigate these risks
  • Involve employees in a brain storming session to get their ideas on how best to manage the risks to themselves and their colleagues
  • Make an emergency plan
  • Review your sick leave, absence and travel policies. You may need to issue amended versions of these policies for the duration of the COVID-19 threat
  • Communicate regularly, in over-drive, with employees via email, text and social media
    • Publicise the supported need for employees to go home if unwell or not to come in if unwell
    • Publicise the hygiene recommendations like hand washing, management of coughing/sneezing etc.
    • Publicise the Ministry of Health guidelines and information
  • If practicable, promote remote working/video conferencing and flexible work options where required
  • Keep up-to-date with the current situation in the country and follow official advice as it is presented
  • Develop a relationship with a medical provider/doctor. Alongside Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number (0800 358 5453), this will ensure you have trusted guidance available to answer questions and deal with concerns such as when an employee needs to self-isolate
  • Discuss and agree (as much as possible) anything that comes up with employees


We know that every business is different. If you need help with working through the HR implications of Covid-19 in your workplace, call us on 09-445 1077 or email us at

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 ___________________________________________________________________________________



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

PositivePeople February 7, 2020 No Comments


Running a medium-sized business is demanding, every which way. It’s all about customers, it’s all about marketing, it’s all about strategy, it’s all about cash-flow, it’s all about product, it’s all about supply chain, it’s all about quality, it’s all about innovation, it’s all about health and safety, it’s all about compliance, it’s all about administration, it’s all about delivery.

And, it is absolutely, definitely, all about your people and their productivity.

Our experience tells us that many of the sleepless nights are the result of “people problems”.

So, the questions to ask, and answer are:

  1. How does a business owner minimize employee issues and also optimize their productivity?
  2. How can this best be done in a cost effective and efficient way?

We all know from experience that the people in your business really do make or break you, so the decision to elevate HR matters closer to the top of your priorities becomes imperative to your success.

Two options exist.

Some owners feel that HR Software systems will do it all – allowing for ease of access to information, hence making the management of team members easier. This is true. However, the danger in this is that HR software systems only make the administration of records and systems easier. They do not provide the relational contact that lifts productivity.

And this is where, in addition to having a great HR Software system, there is a need for deep HR.

What is deep HR?

Deep HR takes hold of the culture of your business and gets everyone involved and engaged in your business. Effectively it elevates all employees, from top to bottom, into the position of looking after the business for you. It builds engagement, enthusiasm, pro-activity, energy, thoughtfulness, common sense.

All the things that you wish your employees had.

What is involved in deep HR?

It is not as complex as it sounds. As a medium -sized business owner, you will not be wanting a complicated HR system that is time-consuming, expensive and difficult to introduce and maintain.

What you will be looking for is an approach and way of running your HR that minimizes your risk and also gets your team humming, looking after your business for you.

What to do

  • Establish where your stand with your current HR systems and approach
  • Identify shortfalls
  • Develop an HR strategy that will support and promote your business
  • Develop a realistic and affordable staged HR program
  • Allocate the time and resources to make it happen
  • Monitor progress and fine-tune as appropriate

You want your people to be really working for you.

Here at Positive People we have been in this business of assisting medium sized businesses optimize their people contribution for 25 years.

Call us on 09-445 1077 or email us at to talk about how we can help.





How the NZ Immigration Accredited Employer process will work — Are you ready for the changes?

From 2021 to hire any employee on a work visa you must be an accredited employer. Accreditation under the new policy will be different from under the current Talent Accredited policy and it will have a significant impact on the pool of talent available to your business.

Current Policy – Talent Work Visa Accreditation

If you need to regularly recruit skilled overseas workers, you can consider becoming an Immigration New Zealand Accredited Employer. While you are accredited you can employ skilled migrant workers without first having to check if any New Zealanders can do the work. You must take direct responsibility for the workers you employ, for their work and you must pay a minimum base salary of NZD $79,560.

To gain Accredited Employer status for the Talent Work Visa, employers need to provide evidence that they are in a sound financial position, have good HR practices, have good workplace practices and be committed to training and employing New Zealanders.

Processing applications usually takes 2-3 months by NZ Immigration. Prior to submitting an application, employers may need to integrate a number of HR, workplace and training practices into their business.

If you aren’t an accredited employer you can still hire temporary migrant workers. However, the process for approval can take longer and you must provide more evidence to support your application.  

Future Policy

NZ Immigration recently made an announcement outlining immediate changes to the Talent Work Visa, as outlined above. In addition, by 2021, six different visa categories will be replaced by one Visa category and all employers wishing to employ a temporary migrant worker on this visa will have to become an Accredited Employer. There will be a staged process across different industries to smoothly handle what will be an avalanche of applications for accreditation. More clarity will be given in 2020 on this process.

More information can be found here.

Be prepared, get in first and win the war for talent

With such significant changes coming, there is considerable risk to your talent pipeline and business if you do hire migrant workers, so it makes sense to be prepared. Working through the accreditation process now for the Talent work Visa will help you:

  • Identify any gaps you have to fill
  • Get your visa requests processed faster and the process simplified now
  • To continue to recruit staff on temporary work visas while the changes take place, causing minimal disruption to your business
  • Get well set up to smoothly make the necessary application that you will need to submit as NZ Immigration announces the changes during the course of 2020

Positive People have especially developed and established an Accredited Employer HR Pack which covers an easy 5 step process designed to provide you with all the HR policies, documents and processes to meet the New Zealand Immigration Department Talent Visa HR requirements to become an accredited employer.

This enables employers:  

  • To understand their gaps for gaining accreditation
  • Provides templates and implementation guidelines to fill these gaps
  • Includes a follow up audit to support ongoing implementation and accreditation

Contact us now on 09-445 1077 to discuss the changes and how we can help your business be prepared for the future.

PositivePeople October 14, 2019 No Comments

Flexible Work – Making it happen.

Alan Pettersen, our Positive People Director, is open to flexible working arrangements as long it’s good for our clients, our company and ourselves. It’s about balancing everyone’s needs.

This comes into focus particularly during the school holidays as many of our consultants juggle work with the pressures of kids at home and the expense of holiday programs. No two situations are the same so Alan adopts the approach that as long as it works for everyone, complete flexibility is possible.

One of our HR Consultants, Chanel Finnigan, shares how flexible working arrangements during these school holidays have worked for her:

“In the first week of the school holidays I’ve really valued being able to take my children to New Plymouth to visit their cousins and check in with my Mum who has  had a couple of falls recently. Each day I’ve done work in the morning, managed to enjoy time with extended family in the afternoon, checked in with the needs of my clients again in the late afternoon and relaxed with my family in the evening. I worked additional hours in the two weeks leading up to the holidays so I was ahead of my project timelines and was therefore able have a week of no scheduled meetings.  I’ve valued being able to deliver my work with a flexi-time, flexi-place solution.”

Having a flexible approach to work is a key part of job satisfaction for the Positive People team, and one that is essential to the employment brand. Alan says

“I know I have a great team and I also know how hard it is to recruit and retain top HR professionals so it’s critical we live our employment philosophy  which is “to provide exciting opportunities for our people so that they work hard, love their jobs, love Positive People, have fun, are stimulated and challenged, and live a balanced life.”

Getting this right means all our clients have access to highly skilled HR experts, and we have a highly engaged team.

It’s a win for everyone.

PositivePeople October 2, 2019 No Comments


“This gradual but prolonged economic slowdown is at risk of ceasing to be about the data and starting to become about the people.” Sharon Zollner, ANZ economist.

With a sluggish economy impacting businesses across the country, the unfortunate reality is that restructurings become an option for businesses who find that the way they are structured is not optimal, resources exceed the work available, or the business is being sold, partially transferred or outsourced.

However conducting a successful restructure is not as easy or simple as it seems (READ MORE LINK) and because of the adverse consequences experienced by affected employees they have a high risk  of resulting in a Personal Grievance.

  1. Its critical to correctly move through the actual restructuring process. This can be a minefield in its own right as each step needs to be carefully planned and also set out in writing.
  2. Each person potentially affected should be treated with compassion, care and fairness.
  3. Make sure that other employees watching from the side lines can see that the process and approach taken by the management is one of sincerity and fairness so that after the process is complete no lingering feelings of dissatisfaction exist.

A restructuring has many elements in it that need careful consideration.

The first critical point to make is that any change, first and foremost, is a proposal only. It is not simply a case of a management decision that is then communicated with those affected. This mistake is often made and results in problems for the employer.

The second important point to make is that there must be a genuine commercial reason for the restructuring. It cannot be about individual or group performance. Any performance related actions that management wish to take need to be dealt with under a Performance Management framework.

The third essential point is that a full and fair consultation process must take place with those employees potentially affected. This requires a set process be followed that allows for representation, time to consider the proposal, time to provide feedback and the opportunity to suggest alternatives to a redundancy or to the change itself, or in fact, feedback on any aspect of the proposal.

Once these steps have taken place, then, and only then, is the employer in a position to decide about whether the proposal will proceed as originally outlined, be modified in any way or scrapped.

It can happen that management wish to modify a role. Usually a change of 20% to the role is the guide as to whether the role has changed significantly. Consultation around this change should be conducted as well. If it is marginal, then giving the employee the choice of either accepting the new role or of taking redundancy can be the prudent decision.

If new roles are established, then there is a need to work out how to fill the new roles. Options here include the placement of employees whose roles are disestablished into the roles, running a recruitment process internally or of advertising externally. This aspect of a restructuring process can be very complex, as you have to ensure you offer the right options for each employee and needs to be planned and managed well.

A key element of a successful restructuring process is in the planning. The planning needs to be meticulous so that the commercial reasons, the actual step-by-step process, the paperwork, the scheduling and a compassionate approach is thoroughly thought through and combined to achieve the desired result with minimum risk.

The paperwork and communication around restructuring is a critical element to get right.

Some employees in specific industries are afforded special protection in restructuring situations.

Because redundancy is such a life changing event for those affected, emotions can run high with both those affected and their unaffected colleagues. In this situation waters can be muddied. In an attempt to be compassionate, steps can be missed, and the process placed at risk.  This is exactly where a solid plan will stand you in good stead as you methodically work through a fair process.

Ultimately what you are looking for is an outcome that sees improvements required for the business come through as fairly and as compassionately as possibly with as little adverse consequence to those affected, and to the organisation’s morale and reputation.

Speak to us.

We have extensive experience in guiding you through these highly complex and risky situations. Contact us now if you need help.

PositivePeople August 28, 2019 No Comments

What we’ve learnt in 25 years of HR Consulting

It’s Positive People’s 25th Birthday!

So, this is a Special Edition.

Alan Pettersen, our Director, started Positive People working from a clunky computer placed on a dressing table. A year later and with the help of his son, Alan lined the garage and he had moved into his first office. The all year round air-conditioning came screaming in under the door. Great in summer, challenging in winter. A few years later and he was in a real office with space to meet with clients and hold meetings!

Now we are celebrating Positive People being in business for 25 years, with a dedicated, committed, talented and experienced team of 7 HR Consultants providing the best service that we can to businesses across Auckland and sometimes further afield. We would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our clients for your ongoing support.

So, what have we learned over the years?
  1. Tech keeps changing, but people don’t – HR is about people, first and foremost
  2. Communication stands at the centre of HR – Good HR is all about great communication
  3. Values drive the organisational culture – Develop good values and deliberately attach desired behaviours to them. A great culture will follow.
  4. Great employees choose you, not the other way around – Constantly develop and fine-tune your employment brand to stand out as a sought after employer
  5. The greater the flexibility the greater the employment attraction – Work hard to create an ultra-flexible workplace wherever possible
  6. Workplaces are diverse and becoming increasingly so – Embrace diversity in all its forms
  7. Organisations make changes faster than ever before – Develop solid selection processes and early performance interventions so you’re always at the top of your game
  8. Everyone is more knowledgeable – Solid employment documentation and systems are essential, now more than ever before
  9. Training and developing employees is non-negotiable –The on-going growth and development of individual team members is essential.
Want to know more about what we’ve learnt doing what we do? In coming newsletters we will explore these topics in more detail.
Contact us for any HR related assistance. After 25 years of HR Consulting, we can help. Contact us on 09 445 1077 or
PositivePeople July 3, 2019 No Comments

Remuneration Strategy


Remuneration Strategy:

How to Use Remuneration to Gain a Competitive Edge


An effective remuneration and reward strategy is an essential tool to support overall business objectives and performance. This comes as no surprise when you consider that the investment in employee remuneration represents one of the biggest costs to the bottom line – one that can blow out if not kept in check.

By treating remuneration as a strategic investment, your remuneration strategy becomes your competitive advantage.


A good remuneration strategy will:

  • Allow you to attract, engage and retain key talent
  • Promote and reward behaviours that align to your values
  • Help you to ensure remuneration is fair and equitable across your organisation
  • Ensure what you pay is market related
  • Motivate employees to increase their productivity and performance
  • Control employee remuneration costs


So, what is a Remuneration Strategy?

A solid remuneration strategy will include:

  • Some form of job evaluation or sizing – there are several methodologies available to buy off the shelf and apply. Alternatively, engage with an expert to develop your own system based on key criteria within your environment
  • External market data and benchmarking – utilise salary surveys to gather this critical information. Most recruitment agencies release free surveys each year, and there are several paid options that will provide data more specific to your industry, location and Company size. We recommend using a combination of the two for the most accurate picture.
  • The design and implementation of remuneration structures. Usually this will be remuneration bands associated with each role – based on the job size and your external market data
  • Integration with your performance appraisal process. Your performance review outcomes should be one factor that feeds indirectly into annual remuneration reviews, along with Company performance, CPI changes and other external market factors.
  • In some cases – the design of some form of incentive scheme. Again, this should be indirectly linked to your performance review process and may range from monthly or quarterly commissions/incentives to an annual discretionary bonus.
  • Consideration of other benefits – i.e. non-monetary rewards such as medical insurance, additional annual leave, uncapped sick leave, flexible working practices etc.
  • An administrative system to support the strategy and processes. This may be assigning one of your team to manage the process and maintain the documentation, or you can utilise specialist software
  • Flexibility – the strategy must be responsive to changes in the organisation and external market.


Positive People can help. If you are interested in developing a Remuneration Strategy for your business, or reviewing your current practices call us on 09 445 1077 or email