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Responding to Level 3 Requirements in the Workplace

Responding to Level 3 Requirements in the Workplace

Below we have set out the likely guidelines and rules at the various Alert Levels for Covid-19 in New Zealand, as well as what this would mean for most businesses and how they might handle these scenarios.

We acknowledge that in the past things have changed very quickly with Covid-19, and as such, this guidance is subject to change. However, we hope it assists you with setting out your plans to respond to changing alert levels.


At Alert Level 3

People must work from home unless they are essential workers OR working from home is not possible and a safe work environment can be provided.


At level 3 people are instructed to stay home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement — including to go to work if you have to, school if they have to or for local recreation. You may also travel to the pharmacy, supermarket and petrol station.

Keeping your team, their families and communities safe will be your priority, along with the ongoing financial viability of your business and job security for employees.

  • People who can work remotely will stay at home.
  • If workload is reduced significantly, you may elect to look at options for reducing the number of employees onsite to allow for physical distancing and to reduce costs. This may include a proposal for some or all employees to take annual leave (with employee agreement or 14 days notice) or a proposal to reduce hours for some or all employees or a temporary closedown for some or all roles, or similar.
  • Any changes to your terms and conditions of employment should made in consultation with employees and seek  written agreement where applicable
If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t come to work. If your employees need to be onsite to work or you provide an essential service –

  • Ask employees to contact you to discuss as soon as they can, and before their normal start time.
  • They must contact Healthline as soon as cold or flu symptoms present themselves. If it is recommended that they are tested, you should encourage them to do so as soon as possible.
  • Generally, this period will be treated as sick leave – including the period leading up to testing (if delayed) and as you wait for results following testing.
  • If employees do not have sufficient sick leave balance, you should discuss any relevant alternatives with them on a case-by-case basis.
  • If an employee has been unwell and Healthline recommends a Covid-19 test, you may ask the employee to provide you with a screenshot of their  test results prior to them returning to the workplace, as evidence of their safe return to work.
Physical distancing of 2 metres outside home including on public transport, or 1 metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces. Employers are required to implement health and safety measures to ensure a 1 metre physical distance is maintained in the workplace if employees need to be onsite to work or you provide an essential service.

You should also follow and implement the latest official advice regarding hand-washing and sanitising practices, cleaning surfaces, the use of face masks, gloves, other PPE and any other recommended measures.

It is likely that schools between years 1 to 10 and Early Childhood Education centres can safely open but will have limited capacity – usually reserved for children of essential workers. Children should learn at home if possible. Childcare responsibilities may impact some employees’ ability to attend work – or even work from home in some cases. You should work with affected employees on an individual case-by-case basis to come up with an appropriate plan.
Businesses can open premises, but they may be asked not to physically interact with customers. Businesses should close their sites to all visitors – including customers, suppliers, delivery drivers. If recruiting, defer interviews or hold them via video call. Put click and collect processes in place and make arrangements for safe drop-offs of items being delivered to site.
Public venues are closed. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets. Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures must be maintained. Inter-regional travel likely to be highly limited to, for example, essential workers, with limited exemptions for others. These measures along with others implemented at Alert Level 3 are likely to impact on the workflow for many businesses. As a result, you may need to consider changes to terms and conditions to reduce staff at work or enforce a temporary shutdown. See top row of this table for guidance on this.
People at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work. You should manage this on an individual case-by-case basis. Together you may agree for the employee to take Annual Leave, paid special leave, unpaid special leave (at no pay or a pay reduction), sick leave or a combination.
Known or suspected Covid-19 cases and their households are put into mandatory quarantine. People possibly exposed may be directed by the Ministry of Health to self-isolate. If your employee has Covid-19, is a suspected Covid-19 case or has come into contact with someone who has or could have Covid-19 – they should let you know as soon as possible and of course, not attend work.

If they haven’t already been directed to self-isolate (or enter a quarantine facility), they should seek advice as to what to do and let you know the outcome.

You should discuss with them how this leave will be treated on a case-by-case basis. They may qualify for the Covid-19 leave support scheme https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/index.html. You may agree to use sick leave to top this up to 80% or 100%, use Annual Leave to top up to 80% or 100%, or a combination of the above.

You should also agree on a return-to-work plan – this will follow official advice but may involve seeking a Covid test after 14 days  and providing evidence of a negative result before returning to work.


Preparing for Possible Alert Level 4

  • People instructed to stay at home in their bubble other than for essential work and essential personal movement.
  • All gatherings cancelled and all public venues closed.
  • Businesses closed except for essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, petrol stations and lifeline utilities.
  • Educational facilities closed.

In the event of a national lockdown or a Level 4 lockdown of our local region, you should communicate with employees via phone calls, texts, whatsapp/messenger group chats and emails. The duration and conditions of the lockdown will dictate the actions you may take but may include:

  • Seeking authorisation to share employee information in order to apply for a government wage subsidy if applicable
  • Consulting with employees regarding how they will be paid for the duration of the lockdown period
  • Discussing expectations with regards to what work, if any, employees will complete from home during a lockdown
  • Setting up a communication system to keep in touch and ensure that all employees are well supported
  • Discussing plans for returning for work – this may include a staggered return-to-work as you account for lower workflow, allow for physical distancing and seek to ensure the financial viability of the business


Available Support

It is normal to experience elevated levels of stress and anxiety as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. You should advise your employees to speak to their manager if they require additional support. The government site https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/mental-wellbeing/ has helpful information, tools, apps and links to a number of support services. This includes a 24/7 helpline where you can speak to a trained councillor – free call or text 1737

If Covid-19 has had a negative impact on employees individual or family financial situation, they can also access tools, apps and links to support services here https://covid19.govt.nz/business-work-and-money/financial-support/financial-support-for-individuals-and-whanau/