As at 12 March 2020, New Zealand has five confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Like the flu, COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The scientific evidence confirms that COVID-19 is spread by droplets.
Minimising the spread of coronavirus is important to keep employees safe and well at work.
Some businesses have been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, leading to down-sizing or closing their operations, including considering redundancies or reducing people’s hours.
It is pertinent that employees and employers take seriously and manage the health risks within the workplace.
Under New Zealand employment law, both the employer and the employee both have certain rights and obligations. One being, the employer must make sure the workplace is safe.
Border control checks do not guarantee an absolute protection to New Zealand, because the incubation period is likely to be up to 14 days. This means people may not show any symptoms until 14 days after being exposed to a person with the virus.
All employers and employees should be regularly monitoring and implementing the Ministry of Health announcements and recommendations in conjunction with WorkSafe and MBIE as an up to date resource to ensure compliance.
Communication in the workplace is paramount.
- If an Employee is sick with COVID-19;
- If an Employee has been advised to self-isolate; and
- If an Employee is concerned about spreading or being exposed to COVID-19.
It is important to note that contractor pay and leave is not covered by this guidance.
Some practical guidance and recommendations for Employers include:
- Employers should not require or knowingly allow employees to come to a workplace when they are sick with COVID-19 or if they have been advised to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19.
- Employers and employees should consider whether working from home is practicable during the self-isolation period. In that case, the employee would be paid normally.
- If an Employer requires an employee not to come to a workplace, an employee should be paid. Paid sick leave (and anticipated sick leave) may be used if the person is sick or needs to care for a sick dependent. If paid sick leave is not available, paid special leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be used by agreement between the Employer and the Employee.
- If an employee comes to the workplace after being told not to, they can be suspended from work.
- If the Employer agrees there is a reasonable belief or concern about COVID-19, they must do what is reasonably practicable to address the risk. If the risk affects a large group of workers, address this in good faith with the wider workforce. If the risk affects individuals or a small group of workers, address this in good faith with those workers.
- Hotel management should provide information and brief all employees and contract staff, including domestic and cleaning staff, on relevant information and procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to people in the hotel setting.
Now is the time to review your individual workplace and/ or employment situation and If you have any questions about whether the above scenarios relate to your workplace or friends and family, please do not hesitate to contact one of our dedicated Todd & Walker Law Employment team members.