Covid and employment - useful information for employers

Posted by Ben Whittacker-Cook on 20/08/2021 3:00:00 PM

Important legal information and employee wellbeing advice from Icehouse Coach Robyn Young. This article first appeared on the Robyn Young HR website.

hr covid

If you are like us and Level 4 was a distant memory until 6pm on Tuesday (17 August 2021), you’ve had to quickly remember what the rules are when it comes to employees, working (or not), pay and various types of leave.

We’ve summarised the key points from Lockdown 1.0, given we now have some case law to refer to. We will also keep you up to date with changes as they develop.

The legal dos and don’ts

An employer cannot reduce an employee’s pay or hours without the employee’s agreement (even if they are receiving a wage subsidy).

If you agree to reduce an employee’s pay, you must ensure that you are paying at least minimum wage for hours actually worked.

If you are in potential redundancy territory you must follow the required consultation process before decisions are made and have a justifiable reason for making someone redundant.

Paying employees

The rule of thumb is that if an employee is ready, willing and able to work, then an employer is obliged to pay them.

It’s quite difficult to provide general guidance here as the law is somewhat confusing and situations are often slightly different.  

The best piece of advice we can give you is that if you are unsure, get in touch.

Wage subsidies

They are back and available for all employers nationwide (not only Auckland and Coromandel) who meet the eligibility criteria. For businesses or self-employed people who expect a 40% drop in revenue they can apply for a wage subsidy that will cover a two-week period at the rate of:  

  • $600 per full time employee per week (before tax).

  • $359 per part time employee per week (before tax).

Applications open on Friday, 20 August 2021 at 9am for two weeks. Head here for more information.

Waiting for Covid test results

If you have someone waiting for Covid test results and they cannot work from home, you may be eligible to apply for the Short-Term Absence Payment.

Self-isolating employees

If one of your team has been told to self-isolate and follow government guidelines, there are three common scenarios:

1. They are self-isolating and they can work from home. Then set them up and get things going!  In this situation, because they can work from home, they would be paid normally. Sick or annual leave would not apply.

2. They are self-isolating and cannot work from home. This scenario will depend on the facts of each situation, but the general rule is that they must receive their normal pay as it is a government directive stopping them from working. The employer may be able to apply for funds under the Leave Support Scheme.

3. They are self-isolating and they are too sick to work. They would be entitled to sick leave. If they have used up their paid sick leave, then this would be unpaid sick leave. The employer may be able to apply for funds under the Leave Support Scheme.

Sick employees

If an employee has Covid symptoms or Covid itself, they must be away from work on sick leave. Sick leave would be paid and then unpaid if they have used up their entitlement. 

Another scenario is where one of your team has a dependent who is required to stay home, and your employee needs to take time off to look after them. This would also fall into the sick leave category.

Remember sick leave increased on 24 July 2021. Check out our summary here.

Are you and your team OK?

While we are all (mainly) at home, lockdowns can create all sorts of emotions for people. As an owner / employer / manager we encourage you and your managers to keep in touch with your teams.  We are talking texts, emails, phone and video. Do what works best for you and your employee. 

For those people that might think we are going all ‘soft and fluffy’ on you, we aren’t!  It’s simply good leadership and caring about your team. 

  • Find out how people are adjusting to being at home again. 

  • They might live by themselves and need human interaction.

  • Someone might have other things happening in their life and need someone to talk to.

  • Are they safe when at home?

  • Finding out how they are balancing family and work when at home. How can you both make this work best?

  • Get breaks during the day.  Working from home does not equal working 24/7!

  • Make sure we all have some structure to our days.

  • Keep your ‘work’ space separate and ideally out of sight when you aren’t at work.  

Everyone’s situation can be different. Keep checking in, even for 5 minutes a day. Your team will value and respect it.

Other financial support

There is potentially other support available for businesses and employers. Head here for more information.

Still have questions or need advice? Head to the Robyn Young HR website.

For more business ownership and leadership advice,  check out more of our blogs

Icehouse Alumni? For more Icehouse content head to Icehouse Central and register now. Follow this link.  


Topics: Leadership, HR & Employment, Covid, Resilience, Wellbeing, Legal, Human Resources, Robyn Young, Wage Subsidy, Law