At 11:59pm on Monday 27th April New Zealand moved out of Alert Level 4 to the less restrictive Level 3, with a further Government announcement due to advise when a drop to Alert Level 2 is likely. This is an opportune time for employers to reflect on what these Levels mean for their business and how they should be getting prepared.
Alert Level 3, also known as the “Restrict” phase sees a number of changes to the lockdown rules of Level 4. While it still means that we must maintain social distancing and safe bubble practices, it does mean that some businesses are able to resume operations.
The Employment and Business team at TODD & WALKER Law have put together some information on what you should consider as a business owner or an employee in preparing to go back to work.
What can open/operate under Level 3:
There are a number of businesses which can now operate under Level 3 and, provided they follow the health & safety rules outlined in Government COVID-19 updates, they can begin to look at getting back to some form of trading:
Businesses can open their premises if they can remain customer contactless. Food premises can open if they can organise phone/online orders and contactless pickup including drive through, or home delivery. Alcohol can also be sold if you have an off-licence.
Goods and retail businesses can also open under with the same customer contactless requirements. Retail stores will need to incorporate online/phone ordering and delivery or contactless pickup, such as click and collect. Retail stores cannot open their physical storefront to customers unless they were already able to do so under Level 4, namely supermarkets, pharmacies, dairies or petrol stations.
The key theme for businesses here is that customers cannot enter your premises during operations and cannot be met face to face. Delivered goods should be left outside customer properties and pick-ups must be contactless.
- Construction and Trade Services
Construction is permitted under Level 3 and on-site work can commence for the building and construction sector. This can include work in occupied buildings and homes, meaning service providers such as electricians, plumbers, or tradespeople can carry out repairs or installations.
What cannot open under Level 3:
Under Level 3 those people who can continue to work from home must continue to do. Employers and Employees should discuss continued work from home plans.
Putting a plan in place for Level 3
It is critical that businesses who are able to open under Level 3 get a plan in place for how they will open and operate in an environment that is safe for their customers, suppliers and employees. Plans should look beyond just day one of opening and think longer term as we will no doubt remain in a period where social distancing and COVID safe work practices will remain the norm for a while.
We have put together some key considerations:
Get a COVID Safe Workplace – Preparations should extend to consider a safe start to Level 3 and ongoing safety. Considerations should be given to:
- Rearranging workplaces ready for workers to return to work allowing for distancing requirements, this may involve separating desks, creating designated work areas.
- Organise work rosters to limit the amount of staff working at one time and consider safe sign in and sign out measures.
- When staff are in the premises consider the availability of hand washing facilities, bathroom and shared facility management, break management and the provision of other health protective measures such as PPE and regular cleaning.
- Managing service contractors, couriers and suppliers to ensure safe handling measures are in place on your work premises. Make sure these providers are aware of any safety measures you have put in place before they enter your premises. This should include recording their details for contact tracing.
- Managing customer pick-ups, consider how will these be managed in a manner that does not allow for any customer to enter your premises or for any direct customer contact by staff.
- Managing staff who may visit offsite premises such as customer homes for trades or deliveries. How will this be managed to ensure that both customers and staff remain safe and follow social distancing rules.
- Ensuring emergency management plans and health and safety procedures have been updated in light of social distancing measures and considering site health and safety.
Employees – as a business owner you may expect employees to return to work as soon as the business reopens under Level 3. In doing so it is important to realise that communication is key with employees:
- Considerations should be given to what hours your employees may be required to work, how wage subsidies may be incorporated into pay and other normal entitlements under employment agreements.
- Understandably employees will be experiencing a range of different emotional responses to COVID-19, many may be worried or reluctant to return to work or may have ongoing family commitments such as children not in school which may make it difficult for them to return to work. As an employer you should consider discussing options like offering flexible working arrangements, annual leave or leave without pay leave for those who may not want to return to work. Likewise, any reduction in normal working hours when the business re-opens should be mutually agreed and negotiated in good faith with an employee.
- Contact your employees as part of your re-opening plans and offer them a chance to discuss their return to work plan and how their workplace will be managed to keep them safe. It is very likely that production and handling methods may need to change under Level 3 and training on new work methods and keeping safe under COVID-19 should be provided.
Leases – if you have negotiated a rent reduction or a temporary change to a lease or a tenancy agreement with your landlord or tenants under Level 4 consideration should now be given to how this may change in Level 3 to reflect your access to your premises.
How can we help you?
Going back to work may raise many questions surrounding business operations, employment agreements and entitlements, work subsidy payments, leases, business restructuring and even the thoughts of restructuring and staff redundancies.
We have an experienced Employment and Business team who are able to provide advice on any concerns relating to COVID-19. If you have any issues with how Level changes may impact your businesses, then please do not hesitate to contact one of our team.