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NZ Lockdown – What Employers Need To Know

Business owners in Auckland should prepare for the worst but plan for the best, following the first recorded cases of COVID-19 community transmission in more than 100 days, according to Employsure, New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisor.

Four new cases of COVID-19 have prompted the Government to impose a three-day, alert level three lockdown in the city from midday until midnight Friday. The rest of the country is under alert level two.

Essential businesses like supermarkets, dairies and petrol stations will remain open and can have customers on their premises under alert level three. Other businesses can trade but can’t have physical contact with customers, i.e. delivery, drive-thru and contactless pickup is allowed. Public venues such as gyms, pools, markets, libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts and playgrounds must close.

“Workers will understandably be confused over the sudden introduction of the lockdown, and it is up to business owners to communicate clearly and concisely with them during this time,” said Employsure Senior Employment Relations Advisor Ashlea Maley.

“If a business can’t operate under the new alert level, the employer has an obligation to consult with workers regarding alternatives, such as working from home, reduced hours, or leave. Employment obligations such as agreements, policies and standards must continue to be met.

“Employers should use this time to make sure they have enough personal protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitiser, practice good hygiene, and clearly display a QR code for the Government’s Covid-19 tracer app. Any risks to the workplace should be identified and managed.

“If an employer is unable to ensure the safety of themselves and their employees, and working from home is not applicable, then closing may be the only option. This is of course a blow to the industry, and we’re likely to see hundreds of businesses forced to close as a result.”

Businesses in other parts of New Zealand will remain open to the public under alert level two as long as they’re following public health guidelines. Ms Maley is calling on those who choose to remain open to not become complacent.

“It’s been five months since we went into the strongest level of lockdown this country has ever seen, and business owners shouldn’t forget that. If there is an outbreak in the community as a result of complacency, it could be the final nail in the coffin for a number of small businesses that simply do not have the cash flow or resources to survive another wave of restrictions.

“Some businesses are only now getting back on their feet. Employers should use this as a learning opportunity in the event of another sudden lockdown, to work out what their situation is, and how they can overcome it.

“The Government now needs to be clear as to the extent this lockdown will affect business owners. We don’t know if it will extend past the three-day cut off point or not, so it is up to employers to be prepared.

“This is a disappointing result for SMEs. The proof will be in the pudding as to how quickly they can reopen and get back to normal trading.”

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