COVID-19 Relief Payments


COVID-19 Relief Payment Information

The following information has been put together to understand the different relief payments available during COVID-19. We have received a lot of questions regarding the different payments and eligibility criteria. There is a short blurb under each payment heading along with the appropriate links that take you through to the respective payments. Additionally, we have touched on the leave entitlements for employees during this time.

As many of you will have seen, yesterday we sent out a newsletter which outlined the close of the initial wage subsidy and the opening of the second round of the wage subsidy. This is also touched on below.

A very common question from HR Today members is whether casual employees can be included in the application for the Wage Subsidy and the Resurgence Support Payment. Yes, they can be included in the application. You are to work out their usual hours of work and see whether they fall under a full time equivalent or a part time equivalent.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch should you have any questions regarding the following:

Wage Subsidy

This subsidy is available to support employers throughout New Zealand, so they can continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by the move to Alert Level 4 on 17 August 2021. The wage subsidy is available to eligible firms at the same time as the Resurgence Support Payment. You can apply for the wage subsidy through the Ministry of Social Development.

Applications for the initial two-week Wage Subsidy August 2021, which opened on 20 August 2021, close at 11.59pm on Thursday 2 September 2021 (last night). 

Applications for a second round of Wage Subsidy - to be known as Wage Subsidy August 2021 #2 - open at 9.00am on Friday 3 September. This is for all businesses and self-employed people who have or predict at least a 40% decline in their revenue from 31 August to 13 September and meet all the eligibility criteria.

Businesses that applied for the initial Wage Subsidy August 2021 payment and who meet all the eligibility criteria for Wage Subsidy #2, can apply for another wage subsidy payment two weeks after their previous application. So, if someone applied on 23 August, they could apply for Wage Subsidy #2 on 6 September. Early applications can't be accepted as each payment is for two weeks.

Please read through the declaration here before applying. 

Resurgence Support Payment (RSP)

The Covid-19 RSP is intended to help businesses with costs such as rent or fixed costs during higher alert levels. To qualify applicants must experience at least a 30 percent decline in revenue over seven days as a result of the increase in alert levels, as well as other eligibility criteria. The one-off payment is available to any business in New Zealand that meets the criteria. Businesses can apply for the RSP at the same time as the wage subsidy scheme. 

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
  • four times (4x) the actual revenue decline experienced by the applicant.

Applications for the RSP are through Inland Revenue. 

Leave Support Scheme

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.

You must have employees (or be a self-employed person) who either:

  • are sick with COVID-19 and must self-isolate until a doctor tells them they can leave isolation
  • are identified as someone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and have been told to self-isolate for a period by a health official through the National Contact Tracing process
  • are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been told to self-isolate for a period by a doctor or health official through the National Contact Tracing process and the dependant needs support to do so safely
  • have been directed to self-isolate, or are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been directed to self-isolate, by a Medical Officer of Health in accordance with the Health Act 1956
  • are considered 'higher risk' if they contract COVID-19 and a doctor has told them to self-isolate while there's active community transmission, or
  • have household members who are considered 'higher risk' if they contract COVID-19 and a medical practitioner has told them to self-isolate, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable household members.

If you've just hired an employee who hasn't started work yet, and they meet this criteria, you can apply for them. You also need to read through the information page and ensure you meet the other criteria.

The Leave Support Scheme is paid as a 2-week lump sum per eligible employee.

The Leave Support Scheme is paid at a flat rate of:

  • $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week
  • $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.

Short Term Absence Payment

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.

The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is paid at a new rate of $359, effective from 24 August 2021.

The Short-Term Absence Payment is available from 9 February 2021. It’s to help businesses keep paying eligible workers who:

  • cannot work from home, and
  • need to miss work to stay home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result (in line with public health guidance).

There’s a one-off payment of $359 for each eligible worker. You can only apply for it once, for each eligible worker, in any 30-day period (unless a health official or doctor tells the worker to get another test).

It’s also available to self-employed workers.

Annual Leave

It can be difficult to navigate a complex and rapidly-changing situation such as with COVID-19. One of the key challenges is working out employee entitlements to leave when the worker cannot go to the workplace or work from home. 

There are two instances in which an employee can be forced to take annual leave. If you and your employee cannot agree on when the annual leave is to be taken, and you have given the employee 14 days’ notice, you can force the employee to take holidays. You can also make employees take leave if you regularly closedown for a particular period every year, remembering to give 14 days’ notice in this case as well.

If your employee is not at the workplace, cannot work from home, and is not sick then the employer and employee should consult their employment agreement and discuss and agree options. MBIE has outlined those employers should consider the following:

Special paid leave should be considered especially in the short term while you discuss what happens next. Other options that could be considered include:  

  • annual holidays
  • leave without pay
  • long-service leave (if relevant)
  • alternative holidays (if relevant)
  • other payments (even partial payments) by the employer for a certain period of time
  • any combination of the above.

If the desired set of options are not provided for in the employment agreement, it would be necessary to negotiate a variation to the employment agreement. If a variation is not agreed, then the existing agreement must be followed.

Ultimately, you cannot force an employee to take annual leave. Make sure you sit down with an employee and seek an agreement in good faith on what approach will be taken.

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