1 Mar 2021

Covid-19: Union aware of 'pressure on employees' to work when sick

11:27 am on 1 March 2021

The Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand have launched a combined call for all workplaces to play their part in keeping Covid-19 out of the community.

Ōtara testing centre on Wednesday 24 February.

A Covid-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay workers who cannot work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test result. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

In a joint statement, they pushed a strategy which mirrors government advice for anybody who has symptoms or is a close contact to stay away from work and isolate.

"It's essential everyone is willing and able to stick to this strategy," Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said.

CTU president Richard Wagstaff said it was vital that everyone, both employers and employees, worked together.

A return to level 3 in Auckland on Sunday and level 2 for the rest of the country followed revelations more than one community case in the February cluster visited their workplace, along with other locations, when they should have been isolating.

It has raised concerns the message is not getting through about isolation requirements - and what financial supports are in place for those forced to take time off work.

Manukau Ward councillor Efeso Collins said the bureaucracy was not connecting with the right community organisations and a South Auckland community engagement strategy was needed.

He said Whānau Ora navigators and community social workers could reach a lot of these families," he told Morning Report.

"I don't know that we're getting the right messengers out.

"It's one thing to watch Dr Broomfield and the prime minister on TV at 1pm but it's another to actually listen to people who can go door-knocking and actually meet you and understand what you are going through.

"The Ministry of Health only had people door-knocking last week in relation to the Papatoetoe High School case. That should have been happening a long time ago."

Collins said the Ministry for Pacific Peoples had now got some material out in Pacific languages, which was needed.

Union aware of 'pressure on employees'

First Union spokesperson Tali Williams said a lot of employers still seemed to be unclear with employees on their entitlements.

"For example if you do need self-isolate at home, that there's a payment available for you to stay home."

Employees should be on full pay for the duration of that isolation, to make sure people are not incentivised to go back to work due to a fear of lack of income, she said.

"We're aware of situations where employees are coming in to work sick and that's just as much of a concern and the reason people are coming in sick is pressure is still being put on them to come in due to understaffing or because they don't have enough sick pay and that's a real worry.

"We do need to be getting the message out to employers that even when someone's run out of sick pay they need to be kept on their wages for the week or however long it takes for them to get better otherwise they will come in to work sick and that's a real risk to the community. "

Williams said smaller employers may need more support to make sure they can pay full wages, but in many situations employers can afford the wage payments.

Payments and support available:

  • While you are waiting for the results of Covid-19 test: The Covid-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay their workers who cannot work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test result. There is a one-off payment of $350 for each eligible worker.
  • If you are off sick with Covid-19, caring for someone with Covid-19, or have been required to isolate because of Covid-19: The Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme is available for employers, including self-employed people, to help pay their employees who need to self-isolate and can't work from home. The scheme is paid as a lump sum and covers two weeks per eligible employee, up to $1176.60 for people who were working 20 hours or more per week.
  • The Resurgence Support Payment is a payment to help support viable and ongoing businesses or organisations due to a Covid-19 alert level increase to level 2 or higher. Eligible businesses and organisations can apply to receive the lesser of $1,500 plus $400 per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee (up to a maximum of 50 FTEs) or four times the actual revenue drop experienced by the applicant.
  • Information will be available this week about a Wage Subsidy for employers and self-employed people impacted by Covid-19. This scheme will be available across New Zealand.
  • Supports for businesses during Covid-19 from Inland Revenue can be found here. Supports for business and families from the Ministry of Social Development can be found here.

(Source: CTU/Business NZ)


This is an official government COVID-19 announcement.

On 28 February, the Auckland region moved to Covid-19 Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This is for a period of seven days. Further community cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the Auckland Region. If you are in Auckland, stay home where possible, and follow Alert Level 3 guidelines. This will stop the transmission of Covid-19 and save lives. For more information on the alert levels go to covid19.govt.nz.

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