The government has set aside $12.1 billion package to support New Zealanders while we face the uncertain impacts of COVID-19.  Government support includes wage subsidies for affected businesses, COVID-19 leave and self-isolation support, increases and changes to benefits, and business tax changes to free up cash flow.  In this article we focus on the COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme.  More articles on the other government measures will follow shortly. 

COVID-19 Leave has been developed to encourage people to self-isolate, without worrying about whether they have enough sick leave or annual leave available.  It is important that employees self-isolate if they have been overseas, or if they have been in contact with someone who has travelled overseas, or someone who has been ill.  For more information on when to self-isolate, the Ministry of Health website should be consulted. 

COVID-19 Leave is open to all employees in all firms, sectors, and regions, sole-traders and the self-employed where the need to self-isolate or recover from COVID-19 prevents a person from working.  COVID-19 Leave is not available for employees who can continue to work (for instance because they are working remotely). 

Payments will be $585.50 per worker per week for full-time workers and $350 per worker per week for part-time workers. In order to receive this support, employers must apply to the Ministry of Social Development on behalf of their employees.  Payments will be made directly to employers, who are required to pass on the full weekly amount to their employees. 

If the subsidy does not cover their employee’s usual wage, the employee could ask the employer to top up their wages from their available sick leave and/or annual leave.  If employees do not have any leave available, the employee can ask for leave to be paid in advance.  The employer does not have to agree.

In addition to subsidising leave for employees who need to self-isolate, assistance is also available for the entire period of sickness for employees who contract COVID-19. 

Employees who travel overseas after 16 March, 2020 will not be eligible for COVID-19 Leave if they have to self-isolation on their return.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins, we have an experienced employment law team, who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.