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COVID-19 - Key Updates - August 2021

18 August 2021

The country has gone into a snap nationwide Level 4 lockdown. The lockdown is fast-moving, so this information may evolve as the situation develops. We have all experienced a lockdown before, however, this is the most sudden countrywide lockdown to date.



Lockdown Employment Law Tips


  1. Business support: You and your business may be eligible for financial assistance. The support schemes previously implemented have returned, including the Wage Subsidy Scheme. Work & Income has appointed rapid response teams throughout the country to provide support and advice, including where employers need to consider redundancies or reducing peoples’ hours. Further information is available at www.winz.govt.nz and www.covid19.govt.nz

  2. Business continuity: Your business may be able to continue operating during Level 4 subject to restrictions. Essential businesses may continue to operate with the correct procedures in place. It is important that you follow reasonable health precautions.

  3. Employer obligations: The key employer obligations and responsibilities remain in place during lockdown. Key employer statutory (legal) obligations will likely arise under:
    • a. Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) (providing a safe workplace);
      b. Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) (the duty of good faith); and
      c. Holidays Act 2003 (HA03) (leave entitlements).

  4. Safe workplace: It must be a primary consideration for employers to provide a safe workplace and to protect workers from potential harm arising from COVID-19. Employers must take all reasonably practicable steps to avoid the risk of harm to workers, which includes potential risk of exposure to COVID-19. Wearing masks is now mandatory when in essential businesses.

  5. Effective communication with workers: Employers must communicate effectively with workers, particularly around issues that may have an adverse effect on workers. The obligations of good faith remain even in exceptional circumstances like a Level 4 lockdown. This includes providing updates on the potential impact COVID-19 may have on the employer’s business/operations, as well as any specific matters that will affect individual employees. Communication is key.

  6. Employees’ minimum entitlements: Employers must comply with the HA03 and ERA when it comes to dealing with workers. Employers are still required to meet all minimum contractual requirements. In particular, an employer cannot pay less than minimum wage or unilaterally change/vary an employee’s terms of employment. For instance, an employer cannot unilaterally vary an employee’s agreed remuneration. Even in light of the current circumstances, an employer is still required to follow a fair and reasonable process. A fair process does not mean it must be lengthy if the surrounding circumstances justify relative urgency and the employer follows the correct process (consultation).

  7. Resources: The top tip is knowing where to go to find the relevant information. We recommend individuals take professional advice about their individual circumstances, and review the updated information from the government websites including:

  8. Finally, check in with your staff during this unsettling time. The strength of our first response as a country was that we did it together. The team of five million are now needed again.

The Norris Ward McKinnon team is working remotely and available to assist.


Rob Davies and Simon Middlemiss and Georgia Watts and Tom Jarman are part of our Commercial Disputes & Employment team at Norris Ward McKinnon.