COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace

Global Overview of Workplace Vaccination.

A sharp upsurge in infections due to the Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccinations have pushed governments around the world to make COVID-19 jabs mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.

A growing number of countries now require proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid test to enter hospitality business or large public events – in particular, many indoor events mandate evidence of vaccination.

New York City for example, will become the first major U.S. city to require, from mid-September, proof of vaccination for customers and staff to be at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the US enters a new phase of battling the Delta Covid variant.

Can I make vaccination mandatory for employees?

In New Zealand, getting the Covid-19 vaccine is voluntary for most people. However, anyone who works in a high-risk border or managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) setting legally must be vaccinated.

In addition to this, businesses providing services to potentially high-risk areas having conducted proper health and safety risk assessments and concluded that the role/tasks should only be performed by a vaccinated worker may require vaccination.

This is because of the health & safety risk whilst performing the role and the potential consequences of that risk, and holds true in situations where the use of PPE or extended distancing between workers is not viable.

Not all essential service providers require mandatory vaccination.

Be aware that just because an employer is providing services to essential workers, it does not automatically put the roles into the mandatory vaccination category i.e., a number of essential work activities do not present increased risk not manageable with PPE, etc.

This means that the focus is strictly on what is required to perform the role just as you would for any role e.g., a truck driver – which requires a specific licence.

WorkSafe has useful information and tools to assist with assessing the risk to ascertain if a specific role needs to be performed by a vaccinated worker.

Management of employee personal health records regarding vaccination

Vaccinated status or otherwise is personal information and the Privacy Act states that it should only be requested where necessary. It is not necessary if the work has not been assessed from a health and safety perspective.

If roles within your business meet the health and safety threshold, you can ask employees if they have been vaccinated but they do not have to tell you if they have, or why they chose not to.

The reality is that most employers do not have an environment that meets the very limited circumstances identified by the Government as justifying mandatory vaccination, and you could potentially be exposing your business to Privacy Act, discrimination, or disadvantage claims by insisting on having this information.

Importantly, you may not discriminate against employees who choose not to get the vaccination – there may be religious or medical reasons why a person cannot be vaccinated.

Can my main contractor or client mandate that my workers are vaccinated, wear face coverings and record their attendance?

Vaccinations

As outlined above, if a particular role meets the health and safety threshold in terms of it being high risk and that vaccination/mask-wearing is a genuine occupational requirement then yes, you can mandate this for your role. Clients to whom you contract with can pretty much put in place whatever rules they want to, and your business needs to establish ways of meeting their requirements.

Roles that might have a genuine occupational requirement for vaccination include:

  • Front line workers – border/MIQ staff, medical professionals, supermarket workers etc
  • Aged care facility workers – due to the high-risk level for aged care residents if they contract Covid-19.
  • People working with children who are below the vaccination age.

Other roles which could also be considered as having a genuine occupational requirement include:

  • Hospitality/café workers who have face to face contact with customers, but not necessarily in a high-risk environment such as at the airport.
  • Back of house roles (e.g. administration) who work in higher-risk companies, but not actually in the high-risk area themselves.
  • Customer-facing roles, particularly in high traffic areas such as shopping malls.
  • Construction sites where there are high numbers of personnel in a confined area.

Employers need to assess the risk assess each job and decide if mandatory vaccination can be justified due to occupational requirements.

Recording attendance

At Alert Levels 1 and 2, businesses are only required to display a NZ COVID Tracer QR code or have an alternative way people can record their visit, but it is recommended that all businesses implement steps to encourage people to record their visit.

At Alert Levels 3 and 4, most businesses that are open must have systems and processes in place to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that everyone aged 12 years or older who enters their workplace records their visit. This means more than just displaying the QR code, as required at all alert levels. It requires the person in charge of the business or service to have systems and processes in place to ensure that people do check in.

Can I ask candidates whether they are vaccinated during a job interview?

Businesses can only ask candidates if they are vaccinated when this is justified by the requirements of the role. For example, if a business decides, following a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment, that certain work cannot be performed by an unvaccinated worker, it may be reasonable to ask about an applicant’s vaccination status. This information will need to be collected and handled according to the Privacy Act.

What can I do if my employee in a high-risk role refuses to be vaccinated or wear a mask?

If employees are doing work that can only be done by a vaccinated worker, but are not vaccinated, in the first instance employers will need to address any practical barriers to accessing vaccination (e.g., checking if travel or time off work is needed). There are a range of other options that employers concerned should think about before considering termination such as: changing work arrangements or duties, taking leave, and restructuring work. Obviously, employers should take care to be fair and reasonable in their response, and work through processes with employees in good faith before deciding on any outcome.

Fortunately, the acceptance and understanding within the New Zealand community that vaccination is a reasonable and responsible step we can all take to protect the health and Safety of ourselves, and others seems to be gathering momentum and increasing.

Summary of advice to employers around mandatory vaccination

  • Before requiring mandatory vaccinations of staff – assess the risk, it is likely that it can be solved via PPE/risk reduction measures. In fact, there are very few roles/industries where the risk is so great as to require mandatory vaccinations to keep employment. Therefore, dismissals resulting from lack of vaccinations is in the majority of cases not really an option.
  • Consulting and communicating with staff and ensuring the Privacy Act is maintained throughout the consultation.
  • Seeking feedback from staff about what you are considering – perhaps introducing a voluntary register to begin with.
  • If clients request mandatory vaccinations of your staff who attend their worksites – ask the client for further information so that you can understand their risk assessment which requires vaccination information as a condition of contracting services.

As this is a rapidly changing area, if you have any questions about vaccinations and employment or you just need some general HR guidance and expert advice, please give us a call, we would be very happy to assist you.

How to Develop a Training Matrix – Employee Development

How to Develop a Training Matrix – Employee Development

Developing Your Training Matrix for Employee Development

Our 2020 blog on the Employee Skill Matrix covered the role of the Employee Skill Matrix, particularly in terms of ensuring change management processes are undertaken fairly and carefully. It also described how a skill / training matrix can be useful in providing a structure for a variety of other important business processes that require sensible well thought out moves, whether they be temporary or permanent.

A training plan is an essential business tool for businesses of all sizes.

The training plan can be used for many purposes. For example, when analysing organisational processes and comparing with the existing team’s capabilities, it is advantageous to know what skills, qualifications & competencies your employees have.

This type of analysis allows you to quickly identify gaps in training or weaknesses in skills, also to know who has the required skill sets to carry out certain roles or tasks within the business. From a health and safety perspective, you can keep track of team member’s training records and the status of qualifications/certificates i.e., whether they are valid, expiring, or expired & ensuring your business’s compliance.

Situations when a skills / training matrix is valuable:

  • visually showing the tasks and skills required for specific roles and the current competency and skill level of each employee for each task;
  • knowing who can be re-deployed during periods of peak in demand or if a person is off sick;
  • when planning the implementation of a new project or technology, identifying employees: who have the skillset required; who could train others; and who needed training on what and when;
  • gathering important information for proposed restructures, and changes to employee roles;
    undertaking succession planning;
  • ensuring compliance by managing essential regulatory training and certificate updates e.g., fork-lift training and first aid certificates;
  • working with team members on their personal development plans;
  • setting staff training and development budgets; and
  • demonstrating that the business is actively training and upskilling New Zealanders when applying for Employer Accreditation with Immigration New Zealand.

A skill / training matrix is an essential tool for organising the information gathered in these activities and displaying it in an organised and easily read way.

The matrix itself can be prepared on a simple Excel spreadsheet or electronically via an online system.

Irrespective of what method selected, steps involved in building a training matrix include:

  • Listing all roles within the business (i.e., the positions);
  • Nominating the key skills required for each of the positions, the relative level of experience or competence required, and the relative importance of the skill to your business (NB: key roles require a robust succession plan to be in place);
  • Looking at each individual and working through the list of training requirements, recording whether it is a requirement for their job role or not. Where there is a requirement, record if the person holds the necessary certificate or qualification and where possible, the expiry date. If there is a requirement and their certificate is missing, record this also.
  • Rating each employee against each of the required skills for each role (regardless of the role they are presently in, taking into account the level of skill and level of experience.

This process should give you the crucial data you need to determine your training and development needs and to develop a training plan and budget.

Another important step in the overall process that goes hand in hand with this is having a relevant Learning and Development Policy and Performance Appraisal Process as this is where managers identify learning needs jointly with employees.

 

 

Below is an example of a simple skills / training matrix template.

example of training matrix

Technological and societal changes are coming at us thick and fast, and we need to keep up with the various skill and training requirements associated with change.

Your employees are a core and valued resource in your business and as such, there is a real need to have a continued focus and investment on growing staff capability. This approach also helps them to achieve their career goals and aspirations while at the same time contributing to your business success.

A skill / training matrix approach is an important business tool to assist you with this.

If you have any questions about setting up a skill / training matrix, a Learning and Development Policy, performance appraisal processes or you would just like some general HR guidance and expert advice, please give us a call, we would be very happy to assist you.

Financial Support For Business During Covid Lockdown

Financial Support For Business During Covid Lockdown

Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Wage Subsidy August 2021 is a payment to support employers, so they can continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by the move to Alert Level 4 on 17 August 2021.

You can apply for a contribution towards the wages of your employees (or yourself, if you are self-employed) for a two week period. You can’t apply for the same employee twice for the same period.

We also have the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme and the Short-Term Absence Payment available to employers and the self-employed. Employers cannot get the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 and Leave Support Scheme simultaneously for the same employee, at the same time.

  1. Who can get it

To get the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 you must:

  • operate a business in New Zealand that employs and pay the employees named in your application, and
  • meet the revenue decline test set out in the declaration, and
  • meet the other eligibility criteria set out in the declaration.

The declaration lists all the eligibility criteria in full, and you need to agree to this when you apply. You must meet all these criteria to get the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021.

The declaration will be available on our website from 9am on Friday 20 August 2021.

2. Application

You’ll be able to apply online from 9am on Friday 20 August 2021, and applications will be open for two weeks.

3. Payment rates

The Wage Subsidy August 2021 will cover a two week period at the rate of::

  • $600 a week for each full-time employee retained (20 hours a week or more)
  • $359 a week for each part-time employee retained (less than 20 hours a week).

You can’t get a Wage Subsidy for an employee for the period they’re covered by a Leave Support Scheme or Short-Term Absence Payment.

COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment

The COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment helps businesses directly affected when there’s an increase to Alert Level 2 or higher for 7 day period (or more). The payment is in place to help cover wages and fixed costs for businesses directly impacted.

To be eligible, your business must have experienced at least a 30% drop in revenue or a 30% decline in capital-raising ability over a 7-day period, the decline being directly attributable to increased Covid Alert Levels.

Covid Resurgence Support Payment is available nationally.

What you can receive

  • $1,500 per business plus $400 per full-time employee (FTE), up to 50 FTE.
  • The maximum payment is $21,500.
  • If you’re a sole trader, you can receive a payment of up to $1,900.

Find out more information about the COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment and how to apply

COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment

The COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment applies to employers of people who are required to be absent while they await Covid tests, and are unable to work from home. This includes employees on casual contracts.

Specifically, the payment helps businesses keep paying employees who:

  • Cannot work from home, and
  • Need to stay at home while waiting on a COVID-19 test result.

This must be in line with public health guidance.  A one-off payment of $350 is available for each employee. You can apply for it once for each eligible employee in any 30-day period.

However, you can re-apply if a health official or doctor tells them to get another test.

Your business should encourage employees to call Healthline or talk to their doctor if they are unwell.

Find out more about who is eligible for the COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment, and how to apply.

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

If any of your employees have been advised to self-isolate, and 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.

The scheme means employees and self-employed people receive an income if they cannot work from home while they’re self-isolating. This includes employees on casual contracts.

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

  • $585.80 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week
    $350 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.
    Employers, including self-employed people, and employees need to meet certain criteria to apply for the Leave Support Scheme.

Find out who is eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, and how to apply.

Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme

Organisations and small-to-medium businesses, including sole traders and the self-employed, may be eligible for a one-off loan with a term of 5 years if they have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

The Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme provides assistance to businesses employing 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. Bear in mind that only one amount can be drawn, to a maximum of $10,000 plus $1800 per full-time-equivalent employee.

Loans will be interest-free if they’re paid back within 2 years. The interest rate will be 3% for a maximum term of 5 years. Repayments are not required for the first 2 years. Applications are open until 31 December 2023.

Please contact us if you require advice around HR processes in relation to Covid-19

Doing Business At Covid Alert Level 4 – August 2021

Doing Business At Covid Alert Level 4 – August 2021

Only certain businesses may remain open to the public during the Alert Level 4 period.

If a business is not sure if it provides Alert Level 4 services or products, it should close.

If you are a business or worker in a non-Alert-Level-4 business, you may still work — as long as this is from home. If you cannot work remotely, you must stay home.

Businesses that can have customers on their premises

At Alert Level 4, only certain businesses can open to the public and have customers on their premises.  You can open to customers if you are a:

  • Supermarket, dairy or food bank
  • Liquor store (in Licensing Trust Areas)
  • Petrol station
  • Self-service laundry
  • Health service, or an entity involved with the deceased or producing health sector materials
  • Accommodation service
  • Court or tribunal
  • Social and community-based service to maintain critical wellbeing or crisis support
  • Emergency services
  • Parliamentary services
  • Transport and logistics service, including passenger transport by road, rail, air or sea
  • School hostel.

All other businesses must not have customers on their premises.

For businesses that are able to operate during alert level 4

If your employees need to work on site, you should: 

  • Limit the number of people on site so everyone can safely stay 2 metres apart
  • Offer flexible working arrangements, for example, staggered meal breaks, or staggered start and finish times to help with physical distancing
  • Clean and disinfect your workplace regularly
  • Provide employees with hand washing facilities
  • Have personal protective equipment (PPE) available for employees to use
  • Display your QR code and have an alternative contact tracing system for workers and customers to use.

If your business cannot meet all Alert Level 4 rules to operate safely, your workers should not go to work. 

Travelling to work at Covid Alert Level 4

  • If your employees need to go into the premises or work on site, they can use public transport to commute.
  • Employees may be asked to show who they work for so they can prove they have a reason to travel. We recommend you provide your employees with a letter to confirm who they are, and their role.
  • Everyone legally must wear a face covering on all public transport, unless they have an exemption.

If someone at work has COVID-19

  • If an employee finds out they have tested positive for COVID-19 while they are at work, they must tell you immediately.
  • You may be directed by a medical officer of health to comply with certain public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, and protect your employees, their whānau and your community.
  • The Ministry of Health has guidance on what you need to do if an employee, customer or visitor is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
  • If an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19 at work, send them home and ask them to call Healthline or their GP for advice on getting a test. If you have a case of COVID-19 at your work place I can provide guidance on what you need to do, just let me know.

If your business becomes or is already notified as a location of interest

If your business is or has already been identified as a location of interest, you will be contacted by a public health official. The public health official will talk you through what this means for you.

The Ministry of Health has guidance on what to tell your staff and customers if you’re identified as a location of interest and how to identify any contacts who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

If you wish to, you can read the full release from the official COVID site here.

Salary Reviews 2021

Salary Reviews 2021

Start Planning for Salary Reviews Now!

June 2021 economic data indicates that the New Zealand and Australian economies are performing at least as well as pre-pandemic levels, and far better than expected.

The better-than-forecast figures can be largely attributed to both countries keeping Covid-19 in check as well as the large and timely monetary and fiscal stimulus from the Government. As a result, both countries have been able to reopen their domestic economies before other advanced nations, boosting employment and consumer spending.

Newshub reports that Australian recruiters are traveling to New Zealand to poach Kiwi employees, and due to skill shortages in Australia, are offering salaries that are double on present earnings in some cases.

It seems Aussie firms are willing to pay high salaries to fill their labour shortages and it is not just lawyers and other professionals they want – they are reportedly also targeting people with skills in other industries e.g. construction and engineering.

With this in mind, to retain skilled employees employers need to start planning for salary reviews earlier than usual.

According to the Hays Salary Guide FY21/22 while 50% of employers surveyed kept salaries steady in 2020, 67% were planning to increase salaries in their next review, with 12% expecting to award increases of 3% or more. But, 67% of employees who were surveyed said they thought a raise of 3% or more would better reflect their, individual performance, so, there is quite a considerable difference in expectations between employee and their managers who were surveyed. Employers will need to carefully manage expectations if they wish to attract and retain employees in the current skills short market.

How frequently should salary reviews be carried out?

Because of the fast-changing environment in which businesses are operating today, employers would be wise to consider carrying out twice-yearly salary reviews to make sure salaries remain competitive with the market, as well as keeping up with internal changes.

Although a salary review does not always result in an increase, it does ensure that the business keeps up to date with its competitors and that employees remain motivated because they know they are being fairly compensated. Conducting a regular, structured salary review for all positions ensures that employees are appropriately paid and understand the logic and opportunity of the wage range assigned to their position. It also gives the employer the opportunity to adjust for changes in responsibility or duties that should be reflected in a salary change, as well as making adjustments for external factors such as changes in the cost of living or changes in industry standards.

Currently, disruptions to markets from Covid-19 are far from over and salary budgets remain tight. Therefore, it remains as important as ever for employers to ensure they are paying the right amount, which can be achieved by knowing what jobs are worth in the (external) job market, as well as the value internally. Although many employers kept salaries steady in 2020, some had to reduce salaries and hours, and these cases should be revisited as soon as possible.

In terms of external comparison, salary benchmarking is a process by which you match internal jobs and their descriptions to similar jobs and descriptions in a salary survey or other source of market pay data, so that you can identify a range that the market is paying for each position. Below are some examples of when a company may benefit from this information:

  • To provide data for the regular salary review process
  • An individual has been promoted into a newly created role or transferred
  • Ensuring top performers are satisfied with their remuneration and not a potential flight risk
  • A merger or company sale/acquisition has taken place
  • A restructure
  • Pay equity checks
  • Hot skills/geographic pay differentials

What other factors should be considered when carrying out salary reviews?

  • Remuneration strategies must be aligned with your organisational culture e.g. if you talk about the importance of being a team player and of achieving quality standards, but you assess performance based only on individual quantitative results, you can’t expect the remuneration to support these goals.
  • Total rewards – don’t forget that people are motivated by more than money and that rewards from work include both tangible (monetary) rewards as well as intangible (nonmonetary) rewards such as training, career development opportunities, work culture, flexible working hours and a biggie is recognition.
  • NZ minimum wage – are you aware there are three different types of minimum wage rates i.e., adult, starting out and training? And do you know when a person on the starting out wage or training wage needs to progress to the adult minimum wage? These rates can be found on Employment New Zealand’s website.

There are no silver bullets for a successful compensation programme, however at ConsultingHQ we believe that the key to a successful programme doesn’t have to be complicated and is more about making sure that it fits with your company’s business strategy and work culture and makes sense to your people.

We can assist you with all remuneration related matters e.g. the review process, job descriptions (so that you can get an accurate analysis of market comparison data), review spreadsheet templates, incentive plan structures, and advice on some of those tricky compensation challenges, such as:

  • You have high-performing employees who are currently paid above the market. You would like to give them an increase, but you are aware that you should slow down their pay increases.
  • How do you manage this situation without demotivating them?
  • You only have a small percentage salary review budget this year, say 2%, how can you differentiate pay and performance with such a small budget?
  • A team member has given me salary data from a recruiter or the internet that suggests they are underpaid – how do I manage this?
  • We are currently recruiting and find that candidates are asking for a higher level of pay than people who are proven performers in the same job are getting – what should we do about this?