In the lead up to writing this article I was thinking that things were going pretty well on the COVID front and was looking forward to the fantastic spectacle Hawke’s Bay puts on for Art Deco week.
It just goes to show how fast things can change and that COVID-19 and its various strains are highly unpredictable and, while a vaccine is soon to be rolled out for front line workers, businesses still need to be prepared to move through the Alert Levels at short notice.
Have a COVID-19 Plan:
In a previous article I suggested having a plan that you can action at short notice. Amongst other things, this plan should cover:
- How staff will work from home, but more importantly…
- How you will, if necessary, propose to seek agreement with staff on temporary changes to their employment terms and conditions. In particular, this could involve reducing pay or hours of work during any period of lockdown.
As we have been through this before, we know the law requires employers to get agreement with their employee’s before reducing pay or hours below the guaranteed levels. Auckland based and nationwide businesses will be well versed in how to address these issues, but given that here in Hawke’s Bay we have not had to do it for a while now – are you prepared?
Just a reminder:
The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is still in place. If your employees have been advised to self-isolate and they cannot work from home, you can apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme for them. You can also apply if you are self-employed or a sole trader.
The COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment is also available. This Payment helps businesses pay employees who cannot work from home while they wait for a COVID-19 test result (after being told to by a relevant Authority). This payment is also available to self-employed people. It is a one-off payment of $350 for each eligible employee in any 30-day period.
Legislative Changes in 2021:
It’s the start of a new year so it’s timely to look ahead and see what we can expect in terms of the likely legislative reform in 2021. These being:
- At this stage there is no confirmation of a minimum wage increase effective 1 April 2021, however it’s widely expected we will see an increase from $18.90 to $20.00 per hour.
- A new and 12th Public Holiday has been confirmed – Te Rā o Matariki /Matariki Day. The Prime Minister has announced that the date of the first Matariki public holiday will be Friday 24 June 2022.
- Sick leave entitlements will increase from 5 days to 10 days per annum. This will bring New Zealand in line with Australia where all employees have a minimum entitlement of 10 days sick/carer leave. Once passed into law, these changes will take effect on an existing employee’s entitlement date, which means that it will be staggered over the following 12 month period.
- Bereavement leave of up to 3 days will be extended to an employee if they (or their partner) suffers a bereavement as a result of a miscarriage.
- An amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000 will see Security Officers recognised as Protected Employee’s if impacted by restructuring or where the work is to be performed by another person (covering a change of contract, contracting-out, or contracting-in). We expect this change to be in place by mid-2021.
- A new Holidays Act should be debated in Parliament during the year.
- MBIE are undertaking a large piece of work that is looking at the classification of contractors. We expect to see some changes in the law, particularly as it relates to “vulnerable” and “dependent” contractors.
2021 will be a dynamic year and subject to change in the employment space. These and a number of further proposed changes mean that employers will need to stay up-to-date during the year. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a little more predictable than last year!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice.