With the intrusion of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron into our community, at some point we will see the impact that this will have on businesses, when employees are required to self-isolate due to either being exposed to the virus or being deemed a close contact of someone who has the virus. This article outlines the Leave Support Scheme Payment and your responsibilities as an employer.
Under the self-isolation rules, there are two ways to do this:
- Isolate at home
- Isolate in a managed isolation facility (MIQ)
For positive cases:
The isolation period is at least 14 days, including 72 hours symptom-free.
Their household members will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after the COVID case has been told they do not have to isolate at home. This means they will need to be in isolation for longer than the COVID case.
For close contacts:
The isolation period is 10 days from last exposure. They will need to be tested immediately and on day 5 and day 8 after last exposure.
Whether an employee tests positive for the virus or is a close contact, they will need to self-isolate and may not be able to work. This will place undue pressure on employers in regards to productivity and financially.
Employers are required to pay employees during this period
The table below provides a summary as to employer/employee rights.
In all instances, the employer and employee should seek first to reach agreement in good faith on what approach will be taken.
|Employee is:||Leave entitlements for employee:||Pay entitlements:|
|Employee is working:|
– At Home
– At the Workplace
|Not applicable as they continue to work.||Employee should be paid, as normal, for each and every hour that they work. This must be at least the applicable minimum wage.|
|Employee is on annual holidays||Employees can use their existing entitlements.|
Employees can agree to take annual holidays in advance, but they cannot be compelled to do so.
|Leave paid in accordance with the Holidays Act and the applicable minimum wage.|
|Employee is sick, or caring for a dependent who is sick||Employees can use their existing sick leave entitlements. If paid sick leave is not available, paid special leave should be considered. An employer and employee may agree that other leave is taken.||Leave paid in accordance with the Holidays Act and the applicable minimum wage.|
|Employee is not at workplace, cannot work from home, and is not sick||Employer and employee should consult their employment agreement and discuss and agree options.|
Special paid leave should be considered especially in the short term while you discuss what happens next. Other options that could be considered include:
– Leave without pay*
– Long-service leave (if relevant)
– Alternative holidays (if relevant)
– other payments (even partial payments) by the employer for a certain period of time
– any combination of the above.
If the desired set of options are not provided for in the employment agreement, it would be necessary to negotiate a variation to the employment agreement. If a variation is not agreed, then the existing agreement must be followed.
|Leave paid in accordance with what has been agreed, including being compliant with the Holidays Act and the applicable minimum wage.|
|Employee is not at workplace, not working from home, not sick, and has not agreed some form of leave with employer||If the parties cannot agree, the employer can direct the employee to take entitled annual holidays with at least 14 days’ notice.||Directed annual holidays are paid in accordance with the Holidays Act and the applicable minimum wage.|
|Employee is absent from work without agreed leave.||Employer and employee should discuss options available for what happens in this situation, but could include unpaid leave.||Employer and employee should discuss options available for what happens in this situation, but could include unpaid leave.|
Leave Support Scheme Payment
If the employer is receives a Leave Support Scheme payment, all named employees must receive a minimum payment depending on their circumstances.
While the employee is self-isolating, the employer can apply for some form of financial support under one of two schemes.
The first scheme is the COVID Leave Support Scheme
Covid Leave Support Scheme
This is available to employers, including self-employed people, to help pay their employees who have been advised to self-isolate because of COVID-19 and they can’t work at home during that period.
This means your employees:
- can’t come into work because they are in one of the affected groups and have been told to self-isolate, and
- can’t work from home.
The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is paid at the rate of:
- $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week.
- $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.
To be eligible for a one-week payment, your employee will have been advised to self-isolate for at least four consecutive calendar days.
If your employee needs to keep self-isolating for at least 11 calendar days or more and can’t work from home, you can apply for a second week payment
The second scheme is the COVID Short Term Absence Payment
COVID Short Term Absence Payment
This is available for employers, including self-employed people, to help pay their employees who cannot work from home while they wait for a COVID-19 test result.
The Short-Term Absence Payment is available from 9 February 2021 and will help employers pay employees who:
- cannot work from home, and
- need to miss work to stay home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result (in line with public health guidance).
The employer will receive a one-off payment of $359 for each employee.
The absence payment can only be applied for an employee once in any 30-day period (unless a health official or doctor tells the employee to get another test). It’s also available to self-employed people.
Should you require more information or assistance applying for the Leave Scheme or Absence Payment please contact us.
Mike McNab firstname.lastname@example.org
Sanjay Kumar email@example.com
Anit Patel firstname.lastname@example.org
Shane Browning email@example.com