Essential Workers Leave Support Scheme – Frequently Asked Questions*
General / 09 April 2020
*Answers are based on the latest Government communications as of 8 April 2020 and subject to change
What is the COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support Scheme?
The Essential Workers Leave Support Scheme (Leave Support) was introduced by the Government to support essential services businesses to pay their employees who cannot work because they or a member of their household are at greater risk in relation to COVID-19 or they are otherwise required to stay home, per Ministry of Health guidelines (MOH).
Who is eligible for Leave Support?
The Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) website sets out eligibility criteria for essential businesses applying for Leave Support, for employees who are “at risk”, that is:
- Required to self isolate by the MOH because they have come into contact with someone that has COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19, and must remain away from work until they are cleared by a health professional or released from self-isolation; OR
- At higher risk if they get COVID-19 or live in the same household as a person at higher risk if they get COVID-19 and the MOH recommends they stay home throughout the lockdown period.
How do I know whether my employees are eligible?
The starting point is to identify “at risk” employees.
To meet health and safety obligations in respect of “at risk” employees, and to ensure employees are not able to take advantage of relying on being “at risk” to not attend work, we recommend taking steps with employees including asking them to advise you of their “at risk” status, and where appropriate seeking proof in support of this, for example:
- medical proof (at your cost) of the condition, impact of COVID-19 on this, and connection with their work; or
- proof from the MOH, doctor, or health board regarding any self isolation requirement.
You should seek advice on what other steps you should take with your particular employees to meet your health and safety and employment law, including good faith, obligations. These will vary depending on your business circumstances.
What criteria must employers meet to apply?
To be eligible for Leave Support, employers must complete this application form. Employers must:
- Be an essential business operating in New Zealand;
- Either be able to show:
- decline in revenue of 30% for any month between January and June 2020 compared to the year before (including projected revenue), attributable to COVID-19; or
- ability to support employee(s) named in the application has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 public health restrictions (e.g. the cost of paying employees’ leave and paying for a replacement is significant). WINZ has suggested that this threshold would be met even where COVID-19 has not significantly affected revenue but the business cannot afford to hire someone else and pay the leave for the employee(s) that need to stay home.
- Have spoken to employee(s) named in the application about how what financial support you can offer, before applying for the Leave Support. WINZ has clarified that employees do not have to use any or all of their paid entitlements before Leave Support applies.
- Seek employees consent in writing to use and share their personal information, before applying for the subsidy.
- Complete the declaration here, including that:
- You are not getting other wage subsidy/leave support for the employee;
- You won’t change the employee’s terms and conditions of employment without agreement whilst receiving the Leave Support; and
- You will make “best endeavours” to pay at least 80 per cent of each named employee’s ordinary wages or salary.
How long will the Leave Support be available?
The Leave Support will be available during Alert Level 4, reviewable by the Government after eight weeks.
How much is the Leave Support payment?
$585.80 per week for employee(s) who normally work 20 hours or more per week and $350.00 per week for employee(s) who normally work less than 20 hours per week, for four weeks. To determine normal working hours, variable hours should be averaged over 52 weeks (or lesser period as applicable).
Do employees have to use their leave entitlements first?
No. However, you can agree with employees to use paid leave entitlements to cover a period for which they cannot work.
Can I apply for Leave Support when I’m already receiving the wage subsidy for an employee?
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific solutions. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.