April 2020

Holiday Pay and the Wage Subsidy Expand article
Contract article

Many people seem unclear about whether employees can be required to use their annual holidays; and whether the wage subsidy can be allocated to payment of holiday pay. 

The answers are: 

  1. Employees may be directed to use their annual holidays by giving 14 days’ notice, provided genuine efforts have first been made to reach mutual agreement on when the holidays will be taken. Note that this applies to “entitled” holidays (i.e. those remaining from the employee’s allocation at their last anniversary date) as opposed to the leave being “accrued” in the period since the last anniversary date.
  2. The wage subsidy can be used to part pay annual holidays if you made your declaration for the wage subsidy before 4pm on 27 March 2020.
  3. The wage subsidy cannot be used to part pay annual holidays if you made your declaration after 4pm 27 March 2020.
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Preparing for Level 3 Expand article
Contract article

Preparing for Level 3 will be no easy task.  It certainly will not be business as usual. You have a few days to plan how you will do this.

  • Planning is vital.  If one of your team contracts COVID-19 your operation will be seriously compromised and may need to close for a period.
  • People who can work from home must do so.
  • It’s all about physical distancing. One metre separation at work is the minimum and greater separation where it is reasonably practicable to do so; and two metres in uncontrolled environments, like in public. If you’re operating a one metre separation you must have a register for contact tracing.

All businesses operating under Level 3 must have a COVID-19 safety plan that sets out how they will operate safely. Worksafe is all over this; and has developed a plan applicable to all businesses. Most industry groups have also been working on plans for their particular sector, which you should review.  The key issues to consider in your plan are:

  1. Risks of re-starting 
  2. Information for workers to keep them safe 
  3. Ensuring workers are well and able to work 
  4. Ensuring workers remain safe at work
  5. What to do in case of suspected exposure 
  6. Review process
  7. Impact on business activity


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Collective Bargaining Changes for COVID-19 Expand article
Contract article

Slipping under the radar at the end of last week was the Epidemic Preparedness (Employment Relations Act 2000 - Collective Bargaining) Immediate Modification Order 2020. Its purpose is to ensure that no party to collective bargaining is disadvantaged by the COVID-19 lockdown.

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Key Strategies to Consider Before Leaving Level 4 Expand article
Contract article

On 20 April, the Government intends announcing its plans for lifting Level 4.  While nobody expects that to occur before 22 April, there is growing pressure from many quarters to move to Level 2 as soon as possible so the economy can start to flow.

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Key Differences in Wage Subsidy Obligations Expand article
Contract article

Your obligations under the wage subsidy scheme depend on whether you applied before or after 4pm on 27 March (ie date of application, not date of receipt of payment).  


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Essential Workers Leave Support Expand article
Contract article

The scheme focuses on three groups of workers in essential businesses:

  1. People who are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidance because they have COVID-19, or have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 (or have a dependent they need to care for who is sick or self-isolating);
  2. People at higher risk* if they contract COVID-19,
  3. People who have household members who are at higher risk* if they contract COVID-19, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to them.

*At risk groups are:

  • Those over 70
  • People with medical conditions: Underlying medical conditions increase vulnerability to COVID-19, including respiratory conditions, such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), heart conditions, high blood pressure, kidney problems and diabetes.
  • People undergoing a treatment for cancer and blood conditions that affect people’s immune systems and makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • Pregnant women, although its uncertain if pregnant women are impacted by COVID-19 in the same way as other people.
  • People without easy access to healthcare.
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Public Holidays Under Lockdown Expand article
Contract article

This month we have three public holidays:

  • 10 April – Good Friday
  • 13 April – Easter Monday
  • 25 April – Anzac Day.  This will transfer to Monday 27 April for people who don’t work on 25 April.
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Balancing Competing Interests During Lockdown Expand article
Contract article

I have read a number of commentaries by politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers and others about how employers should be complying with their employment law obligations during the lockdown. It is clear that most of these people are not directly affected by the situation and have not had to deal with the reality of seeing their business rapidly disappear.

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