Omicron in the Community

With Omicron circulating in the community, chances are if you have employees your business may become affected in some way. Below is some information to assist with your requirements as an employer .

There are many different scenarios which can occur when people are sick or forced to isolate. Below are some different scenarios you could face.

Scenario 1 (Covid):

Employee is sick with Covid-19 – the employee can take sick leave (if no other subsidy scheme payment is received) or the employer can apply for the Leave Support Scheme (LSS). LSS payment is used to cover the leave period and sick leave or annual leave if sick leave exhausted, can be used to top up the wages to 100% in the event of a short fall.

Scenario 2 (Test):

Employee is sick/has symptoms and awaiting testing results – can take sick leave (if no other subsidy scheme payment is received) or the employer can apply for the Short Term Absence Payment (STAP). STAP can be used to cover this period and sick leave or annual leave if sick leave exhausted, can be used as a top up.

Scenario 3 (Test):

Employee not sick, but need to test due to valid reason (employee must provide a valid reason for the test and time off needed for this) – the employer can apply for the STAP and the employee and the employer can agree to use annual leave to top up the amount. If there is no agreement for the use of annual leave – look to your pandemic clause. This is not sick leave as the employee is not sick. 

Scenario 4 (Isolation):

Employee needs to isolate due to having Covid or other Covid related reason and can and does work from home – normal wages.

Employee needs to isolate due to having Covid and cannot work from home – LSS and top up from sick or annual leave if no sick leave available.

Employee needs to isolate due to close contact/health directive/or dependent and cannot work from home but does not have Covid. – LSS and top up with annual leave or special leave. Special leave can be agreed between the employer and employee, this is not an obligation of the employer but rather an addition benefit to the employee. Look at your pandemic clause for guidance. 

Important: Sick leave is not used unless the employee themselves have Covid-19.

Who can get the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme (LSS)?

Employers, including self-employed people, and their employees need to meet certain criteria to apply for the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme.

Criteria you need to meet:

– Your employee must meet health criteria

– Your employee must have been advised to self-isolate for a period of at least four consecutive days for any one of the following reasons (and be unable to work from home for that period):

  • they have Covid-19 or
  • they are a close contact of a person who has Covid-19 or
  • they are the parent or caregiver of a dependent who has been advised to self isolate or
  • they are in the category of people most at risk of severe illness from Covid-19 or
  • they have household members in the category of people who are most at risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

Your employee, or their dependent, must have been advised to self-isolate by any one of the following:

  • a medical officer of health (as defined in the Health Act 1956) or their delegate. eg. the Ministry of Health or a public health unit or 
  • a medical practitioner (as defined in the Health Act 1956). eg. your GP or doctors at the hospital or
  • the National Investigation and Tracing Centre.

Employees, or their dependents, who have been named as someone who must stay at home or in a managed isolation facility under the relevant legislative order or direction outlined in the declaration are also eligible, as long as they are not self-isolating because they have returned from overseas.

Paying wages to staff under the Leave Support Scheme (LSS)

The employer must pay their employee any amount required by the employment agreement and employment legislation. The Leave Support Scheme requirements do not remove or reduce this obligation.

You must try your hardest to pay the employee named in your application their normal wages, or at least 80% of their usual pay. If that isn’t possible, you need to pay at least the Leave Support Scheme payment rate (ie, full-time or part-time).

If you can’t pay your employees their usual wages, then any reduction in wages or agreed hours of work requires good faith consultation and written agreement in line with existing employment law.

If your employee’s usual wages are less then the Leave Support Scheme, you must pay them their usual wages. Any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff – the Leave Support Scheme is designed to keep your employees connected to you. 

Paying Wages to Staff under the Short-Term Absence Payment

Where your employee has an entitlement to be paid as per their employment agreement or the law (eg by taking paid sick leave) you will need to use the subsidy to pay your employee their entitlement under the Holidays Act or their contractual entitlement while they are waiting for the relevant test result.

Where your employee wouldn’t otherwise have an entitlement to be paid if they are not able to work (eg if a worker has used up their paid sick leave so would be on unpaid leave) you:

  • should try to pay your worker as if they had worked that day, or
  • where this is not possible, you must pay at least the full amount of the Short-Term Absence Payment to the employee while they are waiting for the relevant test.

If your employee’s usual wages are less than or equal to the Short-Term Absence Payment, you must pay the worker their usual wages. Any difference should be used to help pay any other affected staff.

Note: For an employee’s Annual Holidays to be used, the employee must be in agreement and know it’s their choice.

Below are the links for the two schemes currently available:

Short term absence payment – STAP ($359.00 one off payment/once every 30 days)

www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/short-term-absence-payment/how-to-apply.html

Leave Support Scheme – LSS ($600.00 or $359.00 weekly payments)

www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/how-to-apply.html

Feel free to contact us if you have any queries.

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