Coronavirus and Leave options

Well it is a trending topic at the moment so just an update on our situation and options should an employee contract the virus.

Firstly, about four years ago we moved all our systems into the cloud as part of our Business Continuity Plan, this was after successfully coming through the Earthquakes in 2011 uninterrupted. We are now in a position whereby all staff can work from home or remotely, anywhere in the world, so we don’t envisage any issue ensuring your pays continue to get processed when due.

We have had a few calls from clients as to what they should do if an employee has to self-isolate.  Alas, there is no easy answer to this but the following article has been prepared by MBIE.

‘What type of leave can an employee take if they are feeling sick and have symptoms similar to coronavirus, or if they have coronavirus?

Employers and employees can’t assume that time away from work in these circumstances would be either paid or unpaid without looking at the employment agreement, workplace policies and the specific circumstances. If an employee is sick, with fever, coughing, and having difficulty breathing, the employer should ask if the employee has been to China or any other country affected by coronavirus, or has been in contact with someone who had coronavirus in the last 14 days.

If this is the case, the employer should check for up-to-date guidance from the Ministry of Health, make available to the employee any leave and pay entitlements they have under their employment agreement (as long as they meet the minimum requirements):

  • The employee can take sick leave, if they meet the conditions for sick leave, or advanced sick leave if the employer agrees.
  • If the employee has no sick leave left but has annual leave accrued, they can take annual leave, or take advanced annual leave if the employer agrees.
  • If the employee does not have either sick leave or annual leave available, or is not able to get sick leave or annual leave in advance, they can take leave without pay, if the employer agrees. In some circumstances, an employer can request the employee provide proof of illness by way of medical certificate. Who pays for the medical certificate will depend on when the employer asks for it. An employee can also use sick leave if their spouse, partner, dependent child, or other person who depends on their care is sick. Sick leave, advanced sick leave, annual leave and advanced annual leave should be paid as agreed in their employment agreement, as long as it meets the requirements of the Holidays Act.
  • An employer can also give employees additional paid leave (special leave) above their entitlement. This might be a good idea, particularly in cases where it is not in the interests of the business, or of other employees, suppliers or customers, for an employee to return to work feeling ill because they have run out of leave.
  • Many employment contracts already contain more than the statutory requirement for sick leave. This is a matter of negotiation between the employer and the employee; and should be written in the employment agreement.
  • Additionally employees could ask for advance wages or to cash-out annual leave, but the employer has to agree to this in writing.
  • An employer may agree to an employee working from home (if suitable).

https://www.employment.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/about-enz/News-and-updates/Coronavirus-questions-and-answers.pdf

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