Advice

COVID-19

All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1. Here you can find the COVID-19 retail rules and guidelines.

Here’s what you need to know for COVID-19


The information on this webpage reflects the best information we have, and we will keep this page updated. (Last update 12 March 2021, 12pm).

Level 1
All of New Zealand
Who can open?
No restrictions.
Can employees come to work?
Yes, but anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and call Healthline for advice.
Contact tracing
All businesses MUST display an official QR code poster wherever people enter your premises. This is to support contact tracing, with the NZ COVID Tracer app. Also, you can create your poster here.
Social distancing
In this case, there’s no formal requirements.
Face Masks
Face masks are required on all planes and public transport throughout New Zealand.
Social groups and public venues
No restrictions.
Public health requirements
No formal requirements, but we recommend that you encourage:
– frequent handwashing,
– use of hand sanitiser,
– regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces.

And also, ask everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from your premises.

If you need advice, please get in touch with our Advice Service on 0800 472 472 (1800 128 086 from Australia). Or you can email us on [email protected].

Find the latest Government information about COVID-19 here.


Frequently asked questions

Our Auckland members have been in touch, to get advice on whether they need to pay their employees, while their stores were closed under the Level 3 lockdown.  

So, we have sought independent legal advice on this, and our advice is that you need to continue to pay your staff. This is unless separate arrangements are specified in their employment agreements.  

However, you can reach an agreement to pay the team a lesser amount after consultation. It is also possible that, with the agreement of both parties, employees can take annual leave or another form of available leave during this period.

Many employees will understand the difficulty of the current situation, and be willing to accept reasonable arrangements. But it’s still important to note, without both consultation and agreement, no change can be made to your staff’s pay.

We are aware that some organisations are suggesting that you do not need to pay your employees if you are unable to trade. Even so, based on the legal advice we have received, we do not believe this is correct. Also, it creates risk – you could have a personal grievance lodged against you.

Government assistance is available to help businesses meet their wage costs. 

Yes, COVID business support is available. See the details here.

If your employee is required to have a COVID-19 test, they may need one or two days off. So, for this short period, you can apply for the Short-term Absence Payment, to cover their wages. When you apply for this, you can’t deduct sick leave from your employee. Also, you cannot use this payment to pay employees sick leave.

To find out more on the Government financial support, Short-term Absence Payment.

You can certainly recommend to your employees that they get a COVID-19 vaccination. But our advice is that you cannot make it a mandatory requirement. All in all, the guidance points to the fact that employers cannot force employees to get vaccinated. So, it could go against the employees’ rights, under the Bill of Rights Act. 

However, Employment NZ has indicated that once the vaccine is available in New Zealand, they’ll release more specific guidance, and specific work sectors. Therefore, we would advise that you wait until this happens, before making any changes to your recruitment processes and employment terms. 

Some jobs don’t require the worker to isolate, even though they are currently exposed to higher risk of infecting COVID-19. These workers may live with family, who are then also exposed to higher risk. If you have an employee who is in a similar situation, then you should be considering your Health & Safety practices. Basically, you should be making sure you’re taking all steps to keep your employees safe. 

If your employee is identified as having close contact to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, then they are required to self-isolate. They also need to self-isolate when they have been advised by a health professional to do so, while they await test results.

However, if a close contact is identified, but they are showing no symptoms, then their household members do not need to self isolate. 

Some options to consider:

  • Whether an employee can work from home, if they’re in an increased exposed position.
  • Ensure basic hygiene practices are still being followed within the workplace, such as hand washing etc. 
  • Maintain contact tracing within the workplace.
  • Ensure employees are staying home, when they are unwell.

You can require employees to sign in/use the contact tracer app in your workplace, and you can require that the app be downloaded on any company phones.  

But you cannot force your employees to use the contact tracing app to track all their movements outside the workplace. You can however, ask employees to do this where possible, to ensure you are doing all you can to protect the health and safety of all employees. 

Under the Health & Safety Work Act 2015 you are required to provide your employees, contractors and customers with the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, so far as reasonably practicable. This includes following all public health guidelines.

You can see the latest guidance from Worksafe here, on meeting the Health and Safety requirements for Level 2 and 3.

Most businesses will have developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan, from when we moved out of lockdown in May. Although this is not mandatory, it is a good idea to have another look at this document, and update it if required. For this purpose, you can download a plan template here.

A staff member might not want to come into work because of Coronavirus. In this situation, you can have a discussion with them around the current situation. Firstly, let them know what you are doing to protect your staff. Secondly, advise them of the current Ministry of Health recommendations. Thirdly, communicate whether you require them to work. As a result, you may be able to reach an agreement. If you need help, get in touch with our Advice Service on 0800 472 472 or email [email protected].

So, if your employee is accessing COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, then you are not required to use their leave entitlements to top up their income. However, if they would like to use any form of paid leave, you are able to offer this or negotiate with your employee.

Example: Your employee earns $1,000 a week before tax, and they have to self-isolate. From the Government’s leave payments, they are entitled to $585 a week. Subsequently, they ask you to use annual leave they have accrued to make up the other $415, in order to receive an income consistent to what they would receive if they were working their normal hours.

If you need to cut hours or reduce staff numbers, then it’s critical that you’re following a proper process and staying on the right side of the law. For this purpose, you can get in touch with our Advice Service on 0800 472 472 or email [email protected].

Westpac’s Chief Economist is releasing weekly commentary briefings each Friday – take a look.

We are also keeping track of how retail businesses are faring, in our regular Retail Radar reports.

The Commerce Commission has released some guidance for businesses which have had to cancel services and events.

Of course, Worksafe has approved guidance, on operating through COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 2. You can click here for Retail Operating Protocol, and also you can read Supply Chain Guidelines here.

You can find these on the Ministry of Health website.

Without a doubt, Retail NZ thinks the priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is to keep everyone safe and well. With this in mind, we are lobbying Government, asking them to allow businesses to open, as long as they can do so safely. After all, it’s safe to fly on aeroplanes at Level 3, as long as passengers are wearing masks. So logically, it should be safe to go to a store, when maintaining social distancing and hygiene. Of course, stores should also have the right to close. Also, through 2020, we were lobbying Government on business support issues, including the Wage Subsidy and rent relief.



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