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.

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.

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?

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.

KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

What are KPIs or Key Performance Indicators?

Key Performance Indicators or KPIs give you an objective way to understand how well your business is meeting its objectives or goals – or not.

KPIs can also be described as performance metrics, performance ratios, or business indicators. They are used by teams and leaders to keep track of and evaluate the performance of business processes and individuals across all departments and have proven to be highly effective.

At the employee level, KPIs can be used to measure performance and manage underperforming staff members, structure incentive payments such as bonuses, and also identify training and career development opportunities for team members. Job descriptions can include KPIs to express what the role is expected to achieve. This helps set the expectation between employer and employee right from the start.

What type of KPIs are there and how important is it to get them right?

Depending on your business’s objectives and goals you can track many different KPIs. It is very important to choose the right KPIs from the outset, otherwise, you may end up measuring something that is not aligned to your business strategy and goals.

The main types of KPIs include business KPIs, financial KPIs, sales KPIs, marketing KPIs, and project management KPIs. Each department within a business measures different KPIs because they all have different focus and goals.

Common examples of KPIs

Below are some common examples of KPIs relating to Sales and Project Management:

Sales KPIs

  • New sales – the total number of new sales made, or deals closed in a specific timeframe
  • Sales growth – the percentage increase in total sales compared with a previous period
  • New customers – the total number of new customers achieved from the sales prospects
  • New leads of prospects – the total number of potential new customers obtained
  • Lead-to-sale conversion rate – how many qualified leads turn into closed sales
  • Level of customer engagement – obtained from customer satisfaction surveys

Project management KPIs

  • Budgeted cost of work scheduled – the estimated, planned, or budgeted value of the project tasks at the time of reporting
  • Actual cost – how much money has been spent on the project to date. Actual cost is compared against budgeted cost to see if a project has stayed on budget
  • Cost variance – the difference between budgeted cost and the actual cost
  • Schedule variance – the difference between the scheduled timeline and actual, indicating how far ahead or behind schedule and budget your project is.
  • Missed milestones – number of milestones not completed on time. It’s used to track larger schedule trends rather than micromanage each milestone.
  • Tasks completed – a percentage of total project tasks that are finished at any given time, indicating progress toward completion.

For employees, here are some other examples of KPIs:

  • Provide input and contribution to ideas at team meetings
  • Undertake and complete additional training or professional development to upgrade skills, competency and knowledge
  • Develop and practice coaching skills to enable direct reports to perform at higher levels

Set SMART Performance Indicators

The key to setting KPIs is to identify desired outcomes for the company then cascade these down to specific business and team goals and then to individuals. This ensures the right work is done at the right time by the right people and ensures everyone is on the ‘same page’.

Employee goals should align with business and team goals which of course need to be constantly re-assessed in light of the changing business environment. Changes should be clearly communicated to employees and put into context. Whether it be increasing profit, reducing costs or acquiring a certain number of new customers, the KPIs must relate to a specific desired business outcome.

Good KPIs should be objective, measurable, and able to show a trend or comparison over time. The KPI should measure the performance necessary to reach the desired outcome but is not a goal in itself e.g., in the case of employee sales calls the KPI should not be the number of sales calls made to prospects, but the number of sales calls to prospects that are converted to a sale.

It is better to focus on a few key metrics instead of many irrelevant ones.

SMART is a simple tool designed to assist in drafting performance measures that are clear and will be instrumental in achieving business objectives.

SMART KPIs are:

  • Specific – specific KPIs avoid any confusion about what’s going to happen. They define what results are expected.
  • Measurable – measurable KPIs can be assessed objectively; they define quantity, cost or quality. For example: ‘respond to all customer requests’ or achieve an average quota of 70’.
  • Attainable – attainable KPIs are those that the individual has influence over within their role. They are challenging, but achievable.
  • Relevant – relevant KPIs make sense within the individual’s role and scope of influence. They may be solely responsible for the achievement of the KPI, or contribute to its achievements along with others.
  • Time-Bound – time-bound KPIs ensure required results are delivered. If the results are to happen by a certain date the goal must have a deadline. If results need to occur on an ongoing basis the goal should specify how often, for example: ‘per day’, ‘once a month’, ‘within 24 hours’ or ‘quarterly’.

Review KPIs regularly

Project and business goals and requirements can shift unexpectedly and the metrics you measure will also change as your company grows and scales. Therefore, it is recommended that you review your KPIs on a regular basis to make sure they’re still tracking progress in a meaningful way. If you find they aren’t, find new KPIs that more effectively help you communicate your goals, and make sure everyone in your business knows how they contribute to success.

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.

FAQ on Minimum Sick Leave Entitlement

FAQ on Minimum Sick Leave Entitlement

New minimum sick leave entitlement

As you will be aware, the Government has passed the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill to increase the minimum employee sick leave entitlement. With the change being imminent, now is a good time to become informed about the change and some of the finer points. It also seems timely to remind ourselves of some of the other aspects of sick leave.

What is the change, and when does it start?

Most employees who have worked for an employer for six months or over (current continuous employment) are entitled to sick leave if they, or a dependent, are sick or injured. Currently, employees are entitled to 5 days of sick leave per year; however, from 24 July 2021 this will increase to 10 days per year. The entitlement to sick leave includes part time employees – irrespective of the hours worked.

Will all my employees get 10 days sick leave when it starts on 24 July?No. Existing employees will get the extra five days when they reach their next entitlement date – either after reaching 6 months’ employment or on their sick leave entitlement anniversary (12 months after they were last entitled to sick leave).

New employees i.e., those commencing employment with you from 24 July 2021 onwards will be entitled to 10 days sick leave from their entitlement date (i.e. six months from commencing employment with you). After the initial entitlement arises on reaching 6 months’ continuous employment, a further 10 days’ sick leave entitlement will arise for each subsequent 12-month period of continuous employment.

Are casual employees entitled to sick leave, and the increase to 10 days?

It depends on their work patterns. An employee is entitled to sick leave after they have completed 6 months’ current continuous employment with the employer or, if that does not apply, after the employee has over a period of 6 months worked for the employer for at least an average of 10 hours a week during that period and not less than 1 hour in every week or 40 hours in every month during that period.

My team already gets 10 days sick leave per year – will their entitlement change?

No. Employees who already get 10 or more sick days a year will not be affected by this change.

Will the number of sick leave days my employees can accumulate increase?

No. The maximum amount of unused sick leave that an employee can be entitled to will remain 20 days.

Can I ask my employee for proof of injury or illness?

Yes. You can require proof of illness or injury if the employee is away for three consecutive days. You may also require proof when the employee is away for less than three consecutive calendar days; in this case you must inform the employee as soon as possible of the requirement to provide a medical certificate and you must pay for the cost of the certificate.

If a team member doesn’t seem ‘right’ to work, can I require them to get a medical check-up?

While you cannot force an employee to have a medical examination, if an employer has good reason to believe that an employee is impaired (unwell or harmed) for any reason (whether from exposure to workplace hazards or other causes) then they may suspend an employee, subject to the usual legal requirements. It is important that you follow a good process in any situation like this. Therefore, we recommend that you seek professional HR advice from ConsultingHQ before taking any action if you are faced with this situation.

If an employee is required to provide proof of illness or injury in support of sick leave you may withhold payment for that sick leave until the required proof is provided. Proof of injury or illness includes a medical certificate.

Reminder about the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme

Hopefully the need for this type of support is in the past, but it is good to remember that in case it is needed again 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.

This means your workers can’t come into work because they are in one of the affected groups and have been told to self-isolate and can’t work from home.

To find out more, visit the www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/index.html.

In addition, the Government have a Short-Term Absence Payment which is available for employers to help pay their employees who cannot work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test result. Further details are also on the Work and Income website.

What do I need to do to be ready for the change to 10 days sick leave?

You need to update your employment agreement template so that people commencing with you from 24 July onwards have the correct sick leave entitlement in their employment agreement. You will also need to ensure other documentation is updated e.g. policy and procedure manuals, employee intranet etc. Ensure your payroll provider/system has had the necessary updates to cope with the change in entitlement which will occur over a period of time with the existing team.

Working out sick leave entitlements can be complicated. If you have any queries about the law changes and need your employment documentation updated, or you just have a general query, please do not hesitate to contact ConsultingHQ for advice.

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.

Employee Rights in NZ During Natural Disasters & Emergencies

Employee Rights in NZ During Natural Disasters & Emergencies

Employee Rights in NZ during emergency and disaster management

Do employee rights in NZ change in the situation where you are managing a civil emergency?

The Canterbury area is currently welcoming dry weather following the devastating floods they have just experienced. This impacts business owners and employees, particularly in the area of employee rights in NZ where there is a natural disaster or emergency to be managed.

This weather event was so severe, the MetService issued a rare ‘Red Warning’ – which means an event is expected to be among the worst that we get. This means the weather will have a significant impact and the possibility that a lot of people will be affected.

In situations such as these people have to take immediate action with no time for giving consideration to matters such as ‘what are employee rights during flooding events or other natural disasters’.

The Heath & Safety at Work Act 2015 requires employers to put the safety and wellbeing of employees before all else

With infrastructure such as roads and bridges destroyed, causing disruption to transport – along with businesses and schools potentially being closed, and homes being damaged – this could leave some workers struggling to get to work.

When natural disasters or other serious events occur, the primary concern of all employers and their employees is the health, safety & security of people.

This comes before thinking about the interests of the business or organisation and during these events employers and employees should try to keep in regular contact and deal with each other in good faith.

Things for employers to consider in the face of a natural disaster:

  • Take care of the health and safety and wellbeing of your team, yourself, and your customers/clients.
  • If the workplace isn’t safe, don’t require your staff to work there. Make sure it’s safe first. Employees can stop work because of health and safety concerns under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. It’s primarily the building owner’s responsibility to ensure that buildings are assessed to determine whether they have withstood the event and remain structurally sound (in accordance with the Building Act 2004). Employers who occupy the building should follow the owner’s advice and be satisfied that the owner is performing their role. If an engineer or other competent professional advisor advises to not re-occupy the building, the building should not be re-occupied.
  • Proactive communication and support following a disaster are key to getting the business up and running again as quickly as possible. Contact your employees as soon as possible to advise them of the workplace situation and your expectations of them. Give them updates even if they are not required to be at work so that they know what is going on. Use texts and social media where possible to minimise overload of the telecommunications network. Remember your team could be under additional stress, provide them with support and help and show your concern. This could include access to an employee assistance programme for counselling, having a team debrief, daily blog or email.
  • If public transport is unavailable or reduced, think about facilitating carpools among team members. Smaller business owners could organise carpooling with other employers nearby. Consider any impact on employees getting to work on time and whether you can be flexible.
  • Consider wider infrastructure issues (e.g., road closures, power outages or water restrictions) and the impact of these on team members getting to and from work and whether you can be flexible.
  • In an extraordinary event, you may need to approach things differently. This may include temporarily changing your leave policy, letting employees work flexibly, or adopting a flexible approach to employees making personal phone calls to check on family during the workday.
  • Think about any negative impact on pay (e.g., processing of payroll) and try to minimise this.
  • Be up front and honest with the team about the situation and give them the opportunity to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have.

Pay and leave during a civil emergency

Employees may not be able to attend work for various reasons including:

  • An employer may be unable to provide work for employees who are willing and able to carry out their agreed hours of work.
  • An employer may be unable to provide a suitable and safe workplace for employees who are willing and able to carry out their agreed hours of work.
  • Employees can’t access the workplace because of restrictions not directly related to their own workplace and out of their employer’s control (e.g. road closures, safety issues relating to adjoining buildings, evacuation due to flooding or tsunami risk).
  • An employee (or their dependant) is sick or injured and unable to work.
  • An employee has to care for a dependant because usual care is unavailable.
  • An employee is willing and able to work but their usual mode of transport is unavailable.

Check force majeure clauses in employment agreement(s) and workplace policies to see if the specific circumstance is covered

Without being clear about what these documents include, employers and employees cannot just assume that time away from work in these circumstances would be either paid or unpaid. If these situations are not covered, then it is up to both parties to talk about it in good faith and agree on how the time away from work will be classed.

If an employee’s partner or dependent family member isn’t injured or sick but he or she requires care, e.g., because their child’s school is closed, the employee cannot take sick leave. In some cases, employees may be able to continue to work while caring for their family, if the employer and employee agree to this arrangement. If it is not appropriate or possible for staff to continue working, employees and employers will need to agree on what basis the employee is off work.

Leave and payment options to consider in disaster management:

  • Annual holidays
  • Anticipated annual holidays or additional annual holidays
  • Using an entitled alternative holiday
  • Special leave, either as provided for in employment agreements or workplace policies or by agreement between the employer and employee
  • Leave without pay
  • Employees can take sick leave if their partner or dependents are injured or sick and they have sick leave available, or the employer agrees to extra sick leave
  • Other paid or unpaid leave either as provided for in employment agreements or workplace policies or by agreement between the employer and employee
  • Advance on wages

Whichever option the employer and employee agree on may depend upon the circumstances, including the nature and extent of the disaster and how long it lasts.

Once all leave entitlements under the Holidays Act 2003 and any negotiated additional leave or any anticipated leave entitlements run out, employees and their employers will need to consider further options in good faith (and consider the impact these options will have on business recovery later).

NB: There are special rules for shift workers relating to the cancellation or early ending of a shift. (Seek HR advice from ConsultingHQ if you have shift workers and you are unsure of what it means for your business).

Employee dismissal for missing work during a natural disaster or emergency

In situations such as the Canterbury flooding, an employee may not be able to come to work for a variety of reasons e.g., they cannot access work due to circumstances out of their control, telecommunications systems are down and they cannot contact you, or they themselves are injured or sick.

New Zealand employment legislation is very clear that employers must follow a fair and reasonable process in disciplinary matters, and keep an open mind when dealing with problems, and act in good faith before dismissing an employee. The reasons that an employee could be dismissed for during a disaster or emergency are very specific.

If your business is faced with a potential disciplinary situation, we recommend you seek advice from ConsultingHQ Consultants before taking any action.

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.

Quarantine Free Travel Impact On Business

Quarantine Free Travel Impact On Business

Impact of Quarantine Free Travel on Business

ConsultingHQ has recently received enquiries from clients about how the new quarantine-free travel affects their business and employees. The details below are correct as of 12 May 2021.

Quarantine-free travel

New Zealand Citizens may now travel to all Australian states and territories and the Cook Islands (from 17 May) without having to go into a managed isolation facility on arrival in Australia or the Cook Islands – or on return to New Zealand. All other standard border clearance requirements (health, immigration, biosecurity etc.) still apply.

Border requirements and travel arrangements can change at short notice

Since implementing the quarantine-free travel arrangements with Australia on 18 April there have already been hiccups, with travel paused for several days while outbreaks have been investigated and contained. Therefore, given the contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus, border requirements and travel arrangements can change at short notice. Australian states and territories can have different entry requirements and rules, so travellers should check the conditions and requirements in each state that they intend to visit prior to booking and travelling.

Get the latest NZ health advice at the Unite Against Covid-19 website

For any international travel, even between NZ and Australia, travellers should check the latest Government guidance and register their details with the NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade Safe Travel website so they can receive up-to-date travel advice.

Travel insurance: International travellers should ensure they are covered by comprehensive travel insurance and that they have a good understanding of what their policy covers.

Asking about employee International travel plans

An employer is entitled to ask employees if they are planning to travel to Australia, the Cook Islands, or any other international destination during annual leave – however, employees are not legally required to tell you. The law recognises that employees have a right to privacy, and to not have the reason they are requesting leave prejudice the granting of leave.

There is some risk to a business if an employee travels to Australia or to the Cook Islands, and border regulations change due to an outbreak of Covid-19 resulting in the employee is potentially being away from work longer than intended.

Therefore, because of this, it is reasonable for an employer to ask their employees if they are planning to travel to Australia or other quarantine-free locations, and it is reasonable for employees to confirm whether they are or are not.

Can an employer decline a request for leave on the basis they intend travelling to a quarantine-free location?

Our view is that an employer could not do that. As the NZ Government has opened quarantine travel it is perfectly legitimate for a person to travel to Australia or to the Cook Islands and technically, they are no different to an employee who requests leave to travel within NZ (or to stay at home for that matter).

For an employer to decline a request for leave to travel to Australia or the Cook Islands, the employer would need to demonstrate that they were in a high-risk workplace where employees were in close contact with other people, or that the workplace cared for vulnerable people.

Of course, as per normal circumstances an employer can decline a request for leave if it does not suit the needs of the business or if the employee does not have enough annual leave entitlement available.

If you are concerned about business continuity and the potential for an employee to get caught in Australia or the Cook Islands due to a lockdown or that they might have to go into managed isolation on return, you can limit the amount of leave that you approve in any given period.

Contingency planning for employees who travel to quarantine-free locations for their leave

It does make sense to prepare a contingency plan to manage the risk of your employee(s) getting stuck in Australia or the Cook Islands or going into managed isolation for 14 days – the best outcome would be if you did not need to use it! At this early stage in the quarantine-free arrangements we do not know what impact there would be on these arrangements if there was a serious Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown in a country an employee was visiting.

Any policies you develop should be broad and general, so your people are aware that the business intends to closely monitor and manage the situation, and to support people as far as practicable if the worst occurred and they had to stay in Australia or the Cook Islands or complete a period of managed isolation on return.

As always, any impacts on an individual’s employment should be addressed on a case-by-case basis with that employee and the outcome would depend on their individual circumstances.

Team Communication about quarantine free travel is essential.

If you have concerns about your employees travelling to quarantine-free countries for their leave it is recommended that you talk to them about this. New Zealand Citizens often have close family and friends in Australia and the Cook Islands and it is expected there will be a lot of travel between the countries involved.

You should talk to them about the potential worst-case scenarios and what plans you have put in place, and if there would be any company support available for employees if stranded or having to undertake managed isolation.

If in the case of changes to quarantine-free travel, discuss with them what the employee might do if they had to take extended time away from work or perform their role (or some of it) remotely.

These are the sorts of things you could cover:

  • Whether the person is able (and willing) to work remotely if they are unable to return to work as intended.
  • How much of their role could be done remotely.
  • Whether they have the resources to do so (devices, equipment, internet connection etc).
  • The hours and schedule they might work.
  • How any period of absence or hours not worked will be treated, i.e., paid leave or leave without pay.

Paying people absent due to border closers

If an employee is either unable to return to New Zealand from Australia or the Cook Islands or must complete a period of managed isolation, and they can work remotely, you should pay them as usual.

If they can do some but not all their work, pay them for the work they can do and agree on an alternative arrangement for them for the rest of their time.

This might be:

  • alternative duties that they can do remotely.
  • a period of unpaid or paid leave.
  • a period of annual leave.

If they cannot do any remote work, discuss how a period of extended absence will be treated, as either paid or unpaid leave.

If away for an extended period, you may need to consider how long you can reasonably keep the employee’s job open for them and how long it may take for them to return to work. If the period of absence extends unreasonably, you must consult with the person about their ongoing employment.

If the employee needs to complete managed isolation on their return to New Zealand, and cannot work remotely, there is a good argument that they are not able to work and therefore not entitled to be paid.

Health and safety consideration for employees absent due to border restrictions

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires all employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who come to the workplace. This includes ensuring that staff or customers are not put at risk by an employee returning to work without completing the isolation requirements that may be stipulated by the Ministry of Health.

Employers may require that an employee stay away from work until Ministry of Health guidelines have been met.

Please get in touch if you have a question that we have not covered here.

Book a complimentary 15 minute consultationnow with our Director, Tanya Gray.