COVID-19 Special Leave Policy28 August 2020
To be eligible an employee must be unable to work from home and either:
- Have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, or
- Be at higher risk if they get COVID-19, or
- Have household members who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19.
If you don’t already have a COVID-19 Special Leave policy, we strongly recommend that you develop one (we can advise if required).
Reporting & Recording - There must be a culture of transparency to encourage employees to advise when they are unwell so an informed decision can be made about the risks of allowing the employee to attend work; and any leave benefits that may be applicable. Records should be kept of the instructions for employees to undergo testing; and the results of those tests, whether positive or negative.
Pending Test Results - The test results should be known in 1-2 days and so the cost of special leave needs to be weighed against the bigger commercial risk of the employee returning to work and subsequently returning a positive test. If the employee can work from home then leave may not be required.
Policy Guidelines - Recommendations would be along the following lines:
- Employee is sick – not COVID related – normal sick leave provisions would apply.
- Employee is asymptomatic and voluntarily presents for a COVID-19 test - normal sick leave provisions would apply if the employee is unable to work from home, but paid special leave would be granted if a positive test result is returned.
- Employee is symptomatic and undertakes a COVID-19 test and advised to self-isolate, whether voluntarily or at the direction of their doctor or MoH – paid special leave would be granted if the employee is unable to work from home.
- Employee is directed to undertake a COVID-19 test by MoH and required to self-isolate because they have come into contact with a person with COVID-19, or contact tracing suggests the employee may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 – paid special leave would apply if the employee is unable to work from home.
- Employee tests positive for COVID-19 – paid special leave would apply.
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 the employer would be eligible to apply for the Leave Support Scheme for that employee (whether or not they have unused sick leave entitlement). The same would apply if the employee comes into contact with someone who has COVID, or the employee is at higher risk of getting COVID (ie age or medical condition) or has household members who are at higher risk.
The Leave Support Scheme delivers a lump sum payment of 4 weeks for any individual employee on each occasion (calculated at $585/$350 per week). You can’t apply for less than 4 weeks at a time. You can make a further application for the same employee if they have COVID and are off work for longer than 4 weeks.
Based on our enquiries of Work & Income, if a 4 week payment has been received for an employee but they only need two weeks off work, the balance of the payment must either be returned to Work & Income, or be used to subsidise another employee that meets the criteria (in much the same way as the wage subsidy rules).
Note that since 21 August the revenue test (40% decline) no longer applies to applications for the Leave Support Scheme.