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Covid-19​ Employer Q&A​

Can I claim the wage subsidy if I am planning on making some of my team redundant after the four-week period?

When claiming the subsidy, you are committing to doing everything you can to retain staff. It is our view that if you were audited later, you may be found in breach of this commitment if you took the subsidy for staff you were planning to make redundant. But you can claim for staff you are retaining. The government has said that any such cases will be treated as fraud.

Can I make my employees take their annual leave during this time?

Yes, you can require staff to take annual leave, provided you try to mutually agree a date and if no agreement can be reached, you give 14 days’ notice of when the leave is to be taken.

Can my team take sick-leave during the level 4 lockdown?

Staff can only take sick leave if they are unwell or caring for a dependent, same rules as have previously applied. If they are unable to work due to Covid-19 illness / quarantine for themselves or their dependents, then they may be entitled for leave support from the government. Employers can access this on behalf of staff through the Work & Income website.

What are my obligations if I discover an employee isn’t complying to the lockdown rules?

Your staff are still employees whether at work or at home. You have obligations under Health & Safety to manage any risks for staff undertaking work. All NZ citizens are asked to report any non-compliant behaviour.

We are an essential business; can I force my employees to work even though they are too scared to leave their home, or they must stay home to care for their children?

We do not recommend forcing staff to work; psychological stress, anxiety and fear are valid issues at a time like this. You have obligations under Health & Safety legislation to take all reasonable measures to prevent physical and psychological harm to staff. However, as these staff are well and choosing not to work, they are not entitled to be paid and are not entitled to sick leave. They can apply to use annual leave entitlements and once these have been used, they would need to take leave without pay.

Can I claim the wage subsidy for employees who were due to start their employment with our company during the lockdown period?

We have seen nothing that would prevent this, but it may be prudent to check with MSD. It may be an issue if the offer was given after the lockdown.

My employees were due to receive a salary review increase, on the 1st April. I have confirmed the increase with them, prior to these measures, can I delay it?

As you have already agreed to this, then you would need to present a proposal to the staff about what you would like to do and why you see this as necessary. Then you must provide an opportunity for them to give feedback and you can make your decision after considering feedback. Then you can postpone or withdraw the pay increase. As this is not a ‘significant’ change to their role, staff would not be entitled to claim if they have been made redundant.

Can I enforce all employees to take a reduction in their salary?

You would need to present a proposal to the staff about what you would like to do and why you see this is necessary. Then you must provide an opportunity for them to give feedback and you can make your decision after considering feedback. Then you can make the reduction. Depending on the significance of the pay reduction, staff may be able to claim if they have been made redundant as a large reduction may be viewed as a ‘significant change’.

You must pay staff the full amount of any subsidy claimed and must attempt to keep them on 80% of previous remuneration. However, if you have lost most of your revenue, have taken a pay cut yourself, have drawn on reserves and spoken with your bank, then it is likely to be viewed as reasonable to reduce pay under this scheme. You must still follow compliant process outlined above.

Can I restructure my business during this period and if so, do I have to follow the normal restructure process?

Yes, and yes but the consultation period may be shorter than usual so instead of taking weeks, it may be completed over several days.

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