Supporting the New Zealand tourism industry through COVID-19
---> Business support
---> Risk assessment
- New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 4.
- New Zealand has had numerous confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- WHO has declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.
- COVID-19 is a quarantinable disease.
- It is important to note this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and that this risk assessment may change as more information on COVID-19 and its epidemiology becomes available.
Easter holiday pay advice from Lane Neave.
The government has released new information on the wage subsidy scheme.
The government announced further measures to support businesses.
Visitors attempting to leave New Zealand should contact a travel agent in the first instance for help on their outbound flights. Airline call centres are absolutely overwhelmed and are requesting patience.
Only those with urgent issues regarding flights in the next 24 hours should be contacting an airline. Please do not go to the airport unless your flight is in the next 3 hours.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises New Zealanders not to travel overseas at this time.
Most foreign travellers can no longer enter New Zealand.
Accomodation for international travellers in New Zealand
Do not go to the international airport unless you have confirmed travel today and a valid passport. Auckland International Airport is open only for travellers with a valid passport and confirmed travel booking.
Some accommodation providers remain open for travellers. If you are unable to arrange travel to your home country, you must find accommodation now. Find accommodation here.
To arrange travel back to your home country:
- Contact a travel agent to talk about your travel requirements, and use airline and airport websites to check flights.
- Check your home country’s border restrictions. You may need to self-isolate when you get home.
- You may not be allowed to transit through some countries. Check for border restrictions in any stop-over country and for any transit visa requirements.
- If you cannot return home, please check your visa. Applications for a further visa will take into account COVID-19 and any relevant travel restrictions.
Find out more about visas on the Immigration New Zealand website.
If you are a visitor unable to leave New Zealand and you require assistance, you can contact your embassy, high commission or consular representative.
Self-isolation (stay at home/shelter in place)
If you are not able to travel to your home country and are staying in New Zealand, you must self-isolate in line with the nationwide lockdown which started at 11:59pm on 25 March 2020.
If you cannot find somewhere to stay, please register with the Temporary Accommodation Service by calling 0508 754 163. After registering, the service will work with you to help you find a temporary place to stay for self-isolation.
If you’re not sure who to contact, the free government helpline may be able to help. Call 0800 779 997 or 0800 22 66 57 (8am–1am, 7 days a week).
A Facebook page has been set up to connect people with self-isolation accommodation.
All huts, campsites and lodges (including those on Great Walks) are closed due to COVID-19.
All huts and campsite bookings are cancelled. You can't self-isolate at a DOC hut, lodge or campsite.
At Alert Level 4 people should not head into the backcountry/remote areas, nor should they undertake outdoor activities that would expose them to higher levels of risk, for their safety and the safety of others.
DOC huts are not available for use as they do not meet the guidance on minimum separation requirements. Normal search and rescue operations will not be running. Nor will it be possible to service huts and facilities such as toilets and as a result, hygiene at all DOC facilities will be compromised.
Healthline has set up a dedicated 0800 number specifically for health-related calls about coronavirus.
- The number is 0800 358 5453
- Or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453
- People calling that line will be able to talk with a member of the National Telehealth Service and interpreters will be on hand. The number is staffed by nurses, paramedics and health advisors.
If you have flu-like symptoms please call Healthline immediately.
If a traveller is unwell, they can call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. If a traveller is identified as having been in contact with a confirmed case then the local public health unit will contact them, assess their health and provide advice.
The requirement for self-isolation (staying home/shelter in place) now applies to everyone in New Zealand.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 places an obligation on employers to ensure the health and safety of workers (so far as is reasonably practicable). Employers should attempt to reach a sensible arrangement with any affected employees regarding a stand-down period from work or denial of entry into New Zealand.
The government has released further support for businesses.
Risk assessment advice
How insurance will react to the COVID-19 outbreak will differ for each individual business. If your business has been directly affected by the outbreak please contact your insurance broker for an in-depth review of your policy schedule and wording to qualify if any cover is provided.
TIA’s strategic partner Marsh has provided a report to help businesses manage pandemic and epidemic risk: Outbreaks, Epidemics, and Pandemics: Preparedness and Response Strategies.
The Government has put together a COVID-19 wage subsidy for employers in all regions.
The wage subsidy scheme:
- supports employers adversely affected by COVID-19, so that they can continue to pay their employees
- supports workers to ensure they continue to receive income, even if they are unable to work.
The aim of the scheme is to provide sufficient support to enable people to stay connected to their jobs, and continue to receive income now that we have moved to an Alert Level 4 shut down.
When you apply you will need to give:
- your IRD number
- your business name
- business address
- the names of your employees
- your employee IRD numbers
- contact details for your business and your employees
Employers will be eligible where they have a 30% revenue drop attributable to COVID-19.
The scheme provides these businesses with subsidies for any named employees (including any essential workers employed by affected employers).
Before receiving a subsidy, employers must take measures to manage the implications of COVID-19 on their business. These measures might include, but are not limited to, talking with their banks and drawing on internal cash reserves.
Visit the Work and Income website for more information.
Payment rates under the modified wage subsidy scheme are unchanged from the original COVID-19 leave and wage subsidy schemes. They are:
- $585.80 (gross) per week for full-time employees, where full-time is 20 hours or more per week
- $350 (gross) per week for part-time employees, where part-time is less than 20 hours per week.
Wage rates for employees
If you are receiving the COVID-19 wage subsidy, you must try your hardest to pay the employee named in your application at least 80% of their usual wages. If that isn’t possible, you need to pay at least the subsidy rate (ie, full-time or part-time).
If your employee's usual wages are less than the subsidy, you must pay them their usual wages. Any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff - the wage subsidy is designed to keep your employees connected to you.
Visit the Employment NZ website for information about the usual employment law rules.
The subsidy will be paid as a lump sum and covers 12 weeks per employee. This is consistent with applications paid to date.
Employers can pass on the subsidy and additional wages through their usual pay cycles, or at other intervals.
It is recommended that any changes to the frequency of salary and wage payments from usual practice be discussed with employees as this may have adverse tax implications for employees.
Applications can be made via the Work and Income website.
Work and Income will verify information provided in applications with Inland Revenue.
Tip: We recommend that employers ensure their IR details are up to date before they apply – you can check online on the Inland Revenue website.
Please keep in mind that Work and Income will begin processing applications immediately after the modified scheme opens. COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation and Work and Income is experiencing an extremely heavy demand for its services. Work and Income will process and approve applications as quickly as possible.
Accommodation is an essential business
Any entity that provides accommodation services for essential workers, isolation/quarantine, and emergency housing is considered an essential business. See the Guidelines for the Hospitality and Accommodation Services during COVID19 Level 4 restrictions.
Campgrounds, hotels and motels are considered essential services, so are allowed (and encouraged) to stay open during Alert 4.
All DOC campsites are closed and a number of Councils are closing freedom camping spots.
Hotel staff cannot work in hotels if they:
- have left any country except those listed in Category 2 (excluding airport transit) in the last 14 days.
- have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
More information from the Ministry of Health:
- Further information for hotels and hotel staff
- General cleaning information
- Personal protective equipment for essential workers
- Essential businesses
- Advice for essential businesses
Finding alternative accommodation
Accommodation providers should refer those people who are unable to meet the requirements of self-isolation to the Temporary Accommodation Service on 0508 754 163.
Advice for backpacker hostels
Under Level 4 restrictions, backpacker accommodation providers may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access conditions. E.g. contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas.
The Ministry of Health has provided the following additional information regarding self-isolation for accommodation providers.
Everyone must follow instructions from a Medical Officer of Health relating to COVID-19, or risk being detained or deported.
Advice for using alternative accommodation (rental homes, hotels, motels, Air BnB, hired vehicles, taxis)
If someone needs to stay at home/self-isolate and is considering using alternative accommodation, they must advise you in advance of their need to self-isolate. The majority of people who will need to stay at home will be healthy, but suppliers may make their own decisions about whether to allow someone to use their provisions, in compliance with regulations such as the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.
If you supply a service which has been contacted by someone required to self-isolate/stay at home, you should consider the implications. The majority of people who will need to self-isolate will be healthy, and if the process is adhered to, there should be no risk to those who use your services in the future. You can use cleaning services to further reduce risk to future users.
If commercial accommodation is being used for self-isolation, who bears the cost?
If local health or other agencies request accommodation facilities be made available for people to self-isolate, arrangements for payment and any additional cleaning will be made with the accommodation provider. If necessary, this may include briefings for staff to help them understand COVID-19 and what they need to do to keep themselves safe.
Can a visitor self-isolate in a camper van?
Campgrounds are essential services and permitted and encouraged to stay open during Alert Level 4. However, shared facilities must not be used and owners may wish to close these off where possible.
Self-contained vehicles can be used as accommodation by persons that are self-isolating. Self-contained vehicles have a toilet, water and waste facilities and will display a sticker confirming they meet the Self-Containment Standard NZS 5465:2001.
Those using self-contained vehicles to self-isolate are strongly encouraged to stay at commercial camping sites, if available. They must remain at the same site for four weeks or until the Alert Level is reduced. Note that during Alert Level 4, Department of Conservation campsites will be closed, along with many local council-owned freedom camping spots.
Vehicles that are not self-contained must not be used for self-isolation. Those currently living in vehicles that are not self-contained must find alternative accommodation while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.
People seeking assistance with finding temporary accommodation for self-isolation should call the Temporary Accommodation Service on 0508 754 163.
Do visitors have to stay in one place to self-isolate?
Once the person reaches their accommodation, they should remain in self-isolation and avoid any public transport including buses, trains, ferries, domestic flights.
Inland Revenue has advised that if your business is unable to pay its taxes on time due to the impact of COVID-19, they understand, you don’t need to contact them right now. Get in touch when you can, and they’ll write-off any penalties and interest.
It would help if you continue to file however, as the information is used to make correct payments to people, and to help the Government continue to respond to what is happening in the economy.
Inland Revenue is continuing to provide essential services for business and individual customers, including payments to Working for Families customers and the administration of Child Support.
Because of the extremely difficult circumstances, they are having to prioritise the work they do and adjust the way they do it accordingly. Find out more.
Public discussion of COVID-19 can be distressing and it’s normal to experience symptoms of stress. Help and professional support is available.
If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.
Online resilience support programme
The psychologists at Umbrella Wellbeing Ltd spotted our request for support for members and have responded with access to their online resilience support programme.
You can access this programme as often as you like and work through the modules at your own pace. Or you may want to get together with your team or colleagues to look at the modules together.
There are eight training modules and each cover a different building block of resilience:
- Social support
- Improving physical health
- Understanding stress and resilience
- Managing emotion under pressure
- Smart thinking
- Tools for improving wellbeing
- Improving work performance and recovery
- Realistic optimism
Each module includes a downloadable action plan, to help you personalise your learning and practise resilience skills.
Employee Assisted Services
Employee Assisted Services is New Zealand’s employee assistance programme provider. EAP can provide confidential, practical assistance to employees and employers when personal or work issues arise that may impact on their ability to do their job or affect their well-being.
See the Government's COVID-19 page for more advice on managing mental health.
Easter holiday pay advice from Lane Neave
Easter holiday pay during Level 4
Legislation such as the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Holidays Act 2003 and the Minimum Wage Act 1983 are still in force.
Holidays Act: calculation
Our starting point is the obligations imposed on employers for payment of public holidays under the Holidays Act (Holidays Act).
So, where an employee works on a public holiday, then they are entitled to payment for all time worked on the public holiday, at a rate of:
- Time and a half, calculated as the greater of—
- the portion of the employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay (less any penal rates) that relates to the time actually worked on the day plus half that amount again; or
- the portion of the employee’s relevant daily pay that relates to the time actually worked on the day.
If this would ‘otherwise be a working day’ for the employee, then they are also entitled to an alternative holiday.
If an employee does not work on a public holiday, which is “otherwise be a working day” for the employee, then the employee is entitled to payment at not less than the employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay for that day.
If an employee does not work on a public holiday that is not “otherwise be a working day” for the employee, then the employee is not entitled to any payment for that day under the Holidays Act.
The Holidays Act: “Otherwise be a working day”
If an employee is working during the lockdown period, either as an essential worker or at home, then the usual rules apply to determine whether the public holidays would “otherwise be a working day”.
The difficulty employers have under the current circumstances, is determining whether the public holidays over the lockdown period would “otherwise be a working day” for their employees who are not working.
The Holidays Act states that to understand what would “otherwise be a working day”; the employer and employee must seek to reach agreement having regard to the following factors:
- The employee’s employment agreement – does it contemplate lockdowns? (which most will not);
- The employee’s work patterns – which for a four week period may be no work or limited work during the lockdown;
- Any other relevant factors, including:
- whether the employee works for the employer only when work is available – work is not available for many employees during the lockdown;
- the employer’s rosters or other similar systems – which presumably for those not working will be not completed; and
- the reasonable expectations of the employer and employee that the employee would work on the day concerned – there can be no reasonably expectation for any employees to work during the lock down period; and
- Whether, but for the day being a public holiday, the employee would have worked on the day – the lockdown would indicate no.
We suggest that employers consider the above criteria with your employees, and decide for your business, whether these public holidays would “otherwise be a working day”.
Holidays Act: payment
Taking into account the above, we consider that for employers, where you are simply passing the wage subsidy onto employees:
- If they do not work on the public holiday – continue paying the employee the wage subsidy, which is paid to qualifying employers in a lump sum for a 12 week period, during which time three public holidays fall; or
- If they do work on the public holiday – continue paying the employee the wage subsidy, but pay them at time and a half that amount and give them an alternative holiday (if it would otherwise be a working day for them). Arguably, the time and a half payment should be calculated on the amount of the Wage Subsidy. The alternative day, which may be taken at a much later time, should be calculated at the employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay at that time (assuming that the Wage Subsidy no longer applies).
While the above two scenarios do not fit neatly into the provisions of the Holidays Act, as the Wage Subsidy is provided in unprecedented circumstances by way of a lump sum for 12 weeks, during which period the public holidays fall, this is arguably the most practical way through.
- For employees who you are paying at a rate above the amounts of the Wage Subsidy (whether or not you are receiving the Wage Subsidy), nothing changes and their entitlement to public holidays is as usual under the Holidays Act, except you may be calculating this amount at rate lower than their usual pay, in terms of their relevant daily pay or average daily pay.
Previously redundant employees
As an employer, if you had to let some of your employees go because of COVID-19, you can now rehire them and get the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy to help pay them, so long as:
The employee was employed by you as of 17 March 2020;
You let them go because of COVID-19; and
You did not previously apply for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy for the employee.
In these instances, the obligation of ‘good faith’ will apply and you must rehire the employee on at least the same terms and conditions.
Re-employment will need to be on a fixed term basis, subject to the 12 Week Subsidy.
Employees who work variable hours
If your employees work variable hours, you may use an ‘average’ approach to work out what rate to apply for. To find this calculation, use the average hours worked over the last 12 month period or over the time period they have been employed (if it is less than 12 months). Using this average number of hours, if it is 20 hours or more you apply at the full-time rate and if it is less than 20, you apply for the part-time rate.
What should I do about cancellations?
How each business deals with cancellations is their own individual commercial decision to make. There are no easy answers - we have seen a variety of responses across the industry so far, with people balancing their current needs with a longer-term view of securing good relationships for the future when things ease up again. Refer to your terms and conditions and do what you need to do or what you can.
We have a force majeure clause in our agreements, can we use it now?
Yes, however, it depends on the wording. Lane Neave suggests seeking advice before looking to invoke one of these clauses.
The Privacy Commissioner has recently answered commonly asked questions when it comes to protecting the privacy of employees:
If an employee returns from overseas and self-isolates with possible COVID-19 symptoms, can you tell other employees?
Principle 8 of the Privacy Act 1993 says an agency should check that personal information is accurate and complete before they use it. In this scenario, the employee is unsure if they have the virus so are taking precautionary steps – therefore the employer should first discuss with the quarantining staff member how they want to deal with any announcements.
An employee comes to work with possible COVID-19 symptoms and is sent home. Can staff be told the employee who might have the virus?
An exception under the Privacy Act 1993 permits the use and disclosure of personal information where it is believed that the disclosure is necessary in order to prevent or lessen the risk of a serious threat to someone’s safety, wellbeing or health. Therefore, if you are concerned about a risk of transmission to other employees, you could tell them about the possible exposure.
Can I require my employee to provide medical clearance before returning to work?
Yes, under the Holidays Act 2003, in relation to health and safety or hygiene reasons, which would prevent the employee from working and there is clause in the employment agreement allowing this.