As you are likely aware, we now have several cases of coronavirus in New Zealand and the situation is changing daily. We are starting to see the impact of this on businesses.
The Government are in the process of developing a “business community package” to assist coronavirus-affected businesses. Further details of the package are expected later this week which it is set to include a targeted wage subsidy scheme, training and redeployment options and options to work with banks to support entities facing temporary credit restraints. Inland Revenue are also working on tax policies providing relief for small businesses in the form of flexibility to meet tax requirements. We will keep you updated on developments as they become available.
As employers, we all need to be focused on what is best for the health of our team, clients and community to keep everyone safe and well at work. Employers and employees should follow the Ministry of Health’s up-to-date advice on coronavirus which can be found here https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus.
There are several obligations that employers need to be aware. At a minimum under employment and Health and Safety regulations, you should have a disaster plan which should include at least the following:
- Emergency procedures for fire, earthquake, tsunami and other hazards
- Assembly points, wardens and first aid training
- How to contact staff, suppliers, clients and insurance providers
- Alternative arrangements if you are unable to access your premises, files, etc
Further comprehensive advice and guides on how to go about this can be found on the Government Business website https://www.business.govt.nz/risks-and-operations/planning-for-the-unexpected-bcp/emergency-planning-for-businesses/
Furthermore as an employer there are a number of staff related issues to consider, including how you need to handle sick leave entitlements, what to do if someone turns up sick, or if you suspect they may have been exposed. For example, if an employee is sick, they can ask you to provide sick leave in advance, use annual leave, or leave without pay. If they are not showing symptoms but you suspect they may be sick you can request they get a doctors check-up however this will be at the employers cost.
The Employment Authority website has really useful Q&A for employers, which cover most of the main questions you may have in relation to coronavirus https://www.employment.govt.nz/about/news-and-updates/workplace-response-coronavirus-covid-19/
Here at Graham Brown & Co, as a preventative measure we are increasing our supply of hygiene products available for the team and clients at all entry points to the office and will be implementing an enhanced cleaning routine of touchpoints and shared spaces as a precaution. We are following MOH guidelines to ensure we are well prepared, and to minimise any potential disruptions should there be a widespread outbreak.
Please do not hesitate to contact our Payroll & HR team should you have any employment related questions.