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Employers must remain vigilant as restrictions ease

As some businesses across the country (excluding Auckland and Northland) partially reopen under Alert Level 3, it has never been more important for employers to ensure their workplace is complying with all health regulations.

Under the eased restrictions which came into effect for all of New Zealand, south of the Auckland boundary at 11:59pm 31 August, non-essential retail stores, cafes and restaurants can open for contactless pick-up and delivery if they have measures in place to operate safely. Like Alert Level 4, only essential businesses and services can physically have customers enter their premises.

While the easing of restrictions is a positive sign the country is on the road to recovery, Employsure, New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisor, is urging business owners not to become complacent.

“We’ve seen what happens when we drop our guard. If employers don’t continue to abide by the health advice and let complacency kick in, we’ll be right back at square one,” said Employsure Advice Services Team Leader Courtney Woods.

“Employers must continue to clean all surfaces regularly, put up correct signage and check-in information, provide hand sanitiser, use contactless payment, and offer click and collect where applicable. Minimising contact with others is essential if we are to stop the spread of infection, and business owners are the ones that will help us in our recovery.”

Having an effective infection control policy that includes identifying and assessing infection hazards in the workplace and implementing specific controls can help eliminate or minimise the risk of transmission. These may include physical distancing, regular handwashing with soap, wearing face coverings and the use of hand-sanitiser. Appropriate routine environmental cleaning and disinfection should occur regularly at all workplaces.

Those who can reopen, should ensure their COVID Safe Plan is regularly reviewed and implemented and depending on the business or service, they may need to direct employees to wear a face covering at all times in the workplace (unless an exemption applies). Businesses that can switch their operations by having employees work from home are still urged to do so.

If an employee or independent contractor tests positive to COVID-19 over the coming days and has physically been in the workplace while infected, their employer must notify the Ministry of Health as soon as they become aware and follow their advice. Should a worker or employee fall ill, additional control measures need to be initiated. This includes isolating the infected person, identifying anyone they may have come in contact with and disinfecting the areas they have been working in, however, the next steps will depend on advice received from the Ministry of Health.

“This is a highly contagious strain of the virus and there is no disputing that action is required to stop the spread,” continued Ms Woods.

“To help restrictions ease as soon as possible, business owners need to ensure they meet their health and safety responsibilities, comply with their legal obligations, and follow government directions. What we don’t want to see is more cases in the community that could have easily been prevented.”

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