On 24 April 2020 the government released a statement announcing that it will be extending the essential workers leave scheme to accommodate more and more workers returning to the workforce.  Rather than just being available to essential workers the leave support scheme will now be available to all workers who are returning to work.  The scheme will be known as the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme, and is available from 1 May 2020.

Eligible employees:

There are four categories of essential workers that may be eligible to apply under the scheme:

  1. Employees who are sick with COVID-19 and in isolation.
  2. Employee in self-isolation due to close contact with an infected person.
  3. Employees with dependents who are either sick with COVID-19, or whose dependents are self-isolating as a close contact.
  4. Employees who have serious health conditions themselves, or in their households, that put them at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, and who agree with their employer that they will not work for an agreed period.

Eligible employers:

An employer is only eligible if they:

  • Have experienced a 30 percent revenue loss because of COVID-19; or
  • Their ability to support an eligible employee that needs to take leave because of COVID-19 has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.

How to apply:

Applications are made by eligible employers directly to Work and Income New Zealand, if they believe that an employee is an eligible employee based on the based on the information provided by the worker.


The leave payments are available for a 4-week period, with options to re-apply after four weeks, if necessary.

Eligible employers will be paid:

  • $585.80 per week (gross) for employee who usually work 20 hours or more per week; or
  • $350.00 per week (gross) for employee who usually work fewer than 20 hours a week.

Employers should pass the full subsidy onto their effected employee (less deductions), unless the subsidy amount is more than what the employee would usually be paid.  In that case, the employer can use the remaining subsidy to fund the wages of other employees.  Furthermore, employers must use their best endeavours to pay at least 80% of the workers’ usual income before COVID-19. 

Employers will be able to treat the subsidy payments they receive as exempt income for tax purposes.  Employers must however continue to make the usual deductions before paying their employees (for instance KiwiSaver, PAYE, ACC levies, child support, and so on).  Employers are advised to contact the IRD, their accountants, or tax agent for further details. 

An employer will not be able to apply for the Covid-19 leave support scheme and while still receiving their essential worker’s leave support for the same employee.  Employers may also not be able to receive the wage subsidy and any leave support scheme at the same time. 

State sector employees are excluded from this scheme.

Read more about other support available to business and employers.