COVID-19 Isolation FAQ’s
General, Health, Health and Safety, COVID-19, Employment Law / 17 February 2022
Following New Zealand’s shift into phase two of a possible three in the red traffic light setting, we answer the three most FAQs below on employer’s obligations when employees are required to isolate.
If my employee is required to self-isolate but does not have COVID-19, can they take sick leave?
Sick leave should only be used in the event of sickness or injury. It should not be used where employees are required to isolate because they have been a close-contact or secondary-contact.
Am I obligated to pay my employee if they are unable to work at home while isolating?
The law remains unclear in this area and cases on this will continue. The safest approach would be to pay employees as usual in accordance with their employment agreements (but will likely be unaffordable for most employers) or to agree to vary payment obligations while employees cannot work.
You will also need to take into account declaration obligations completed to receive Government support payments for eligible employees.
The issue of requiring employees to take unpaid leave has not yet been tested in the Courts and you should seek advice before taking this approach.
Government support is available for isolation, and declarations must be completed, following employee consent, in making application for either the Leave Subsidy Scheme or Short Term Absence Payment. The type of payment that an employer can apply for will depend on the reason that the employee is isolating and there are eligibility requirements.
Message for Employers
If you do not already have a clear policy in place on what will happen if employees are required to isolate, including what proof they should provide of this, testing requirements, work expectations and leave/support options, given the advancement of Omicron, we recommend implementing this as soon as possible.
Our team can help with advice on what entitlements you may access, as well as seeking employee consent to applications for the Leave Subsidy Scheme or Short-Term Absence Payment and any changes to pay or working arrangements due to isolation requirements.
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.