New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a new leave scheme for essential workers, meaning those exposed and vulnerable to Covid-19 are able to take leave and still be paid.
Set to start on Monday, April 6, 2020, the scheme will support any essential and front line workers, who are vulnerable and can remain at home and remain paid.
Administered by the Ministry of Social Development, the scheme focuses on three groups of essential businesses workers, and employers will be eligible to apply for those employees under the scheme
1. Workers who are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidance because they have contracted the virus or have come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus (or have a dependent they need to care for who is sick or self-isolating)
2. Those deemed at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, in accordance with public health guidance and as such should self-isolate for the duration of the lockdown (and potentially longer);
3. Those who have household members who are deemed at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, in accordance with public health and as such should self-isolate for the duration of the lockdown (and potentially longer) to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to that household member.
Workers will be paid the same rate as the wage subsidy scheme: $585 a week full-time and for a part-time worker $350 a week.
Employers accessing the scheme should pay workers at either:
· Their usual weekly income before COVID-19, if this is less than the relevant rate provided; or
· A minimum of the full leave rate, if the workers’ usual income before COVID‑19 exceeds the relevant rate, and in that case also make best endeavours to pay at least 80% of the workers’ usual income before COVID-19;
Employees who are on other forms of paid leave should be paid at their usual full rates of pay.
Payments are done on a four-weekly basis with the option for essential businesses to re-apply for those same workers after four-weeks or make further applications for additional workers who are eligible at any time, while the scheme remains open.
Officials are preparing guidance to support employers and employees to discuss what it means to be at higher risk.
The details of the scheme are being finalised in the next few days.
In other news
A Government WhatsApp channel has been launched to help make information more easily accessible and shareable in the fight against Covid-19.
1. Latest updates and news
2. Latest case information
3. Covid-19 symptoms
4. What financial support is available
5. Things people need to do to unite against Covid-19
Ardern said since so many Kiwis already have WhatsApp, the Government didn't consider building its own app.