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.
- 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.
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
QUARANTINE-FREE TRAVEL AND THE POTENTIAL IMPACT ON YOUR 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.
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.
Leadership skills can make a difference to your business.
Leadership qualities are the very cornerstone of success.
Almost every great accomplishment has at its core, solid leadership. When everything is going well it is leadership that keeps people from getting complacent. When things are going poorly it is leadership that guides and encourages people, it is leadership that sets the new course, and it is leadership that provides hope for positive future outcomes.
Leadership style refers to a leader’s characteristic behaviours when directing, motivating, guiding, and managing groups of people. History has shown how great leaders can inspire political movements and social change.
Great leaders can also motivate others to perform, create, and innovate. In the past, managers used to operate with a rigid, bottom-line focussed, heavy into a command-and-control style of leadership. However, in most situations that style does not work now. Values have changed.
Research by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s identified three major leadership styles:
- authoritarian (autocratic)
- participative (democratic)
- delegative (laissez-faire).
While subsequent research has identified other more defined types of leadership, this early work provided a catalyst for the identification of other characteristic patterns of leadership including the transformational leadership style which is often identified as the single most effective style.
Leaders adopting the transformational leadership style tend to be emotionally intelligent, energetic, and passionate.
They are not only committed to helping the organization achieve its goals, but also to helping group members fulfil their potential. Research shows that this style of leadership results in higher performance, more improved group satisfaction than other leadership styles as well as leading to improved well-being among group members.
However, it is not easy being a leader, especially these days when we are living in times of continual and, at times, exponential change.
The social and economic crisis caused by the current global pandemic is an extreme but relevant example of the types of challenges leaders face today.
Like any other crisis, the disruptive force and major social impacts were entirely unexpected and during the early days of the pandemic the most urgent objective of leaders would be to safeguard the future of the organisation and by adopting a more autocratic approach, making quick decisions for today while also considering what will be the “next normal” for tomorrow.
The “next normal” is the opportunity for organisations to emerge from this crisis stronger than before and in the post-pandemic world, smart leaders will need to adapt their leadership style.
Covid-19 has changed what business leadership looks like now, and for the foreseeable future. The more directive leadership style adopted in the early days of the pandemic would be perceived as an overly directive, actionist one-leader show during business as usual.
Leaders will need to be flexible enough to adapt leadership style to the situation as it evolves.
- An article in Forbes Magazine describes the “7 Leadership Traits For The Post COVID-19 Workplace” required to restore and revive stressed and flailing supply chains, product lines even entire industries” as being:
- Candour/openness/honesty – Possibly the best antidote for a workplace climate of anxiety and cynicism is openness and honesty. People respond so much better to the known (even if the news is not great) than the unknown (which tends to fuel more anxiety) or even worse misleading half-truths or irresponsible optimism (which can irreparably damage trust long term).
- Regular, reliable fact-based communication – regular, reliable fact-based communication goes a long way to bringing people together and reducing workplace anxiety.
- Empathy – some people are still feeling fragile and concerned about Covid-19. There has been a loss of sense of community and cohesion among staff from the isolation experienced e.g., loss of shared office space when working from home and ongoing concerns about things like job security and sick leave balances. Even just providing some heartfelt encouragement and recognition for a job well done goes a long way.
Intergenerational and managing a remote and distributed workforce – Gen Zers and millennials require a different style of management (ethical).
- Virtual and distributed teams also require a different style of leadership. You still need to bring these employees together regularly or work streams may fall apart.
- Flexibility and adaptability – Covid-19 has taught us that businesses need to be flexible and adaptable to changing situations. Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, leaders need to avoid the temptation to “stick with the decision” and change course if necessary.
- Humility / modesty – whether its knowledge related to public health, statistics, human resources or even legal issues, leaders will undoubtedly find themselves needing to rely on expertise that they do not themselves have to make the best decisions for the broader organisation. As a result, humility is a huge asset. It takes a strong leader to respond to a difficult question with “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.
- Active listening – while leaders certainly need to make hard decisions that will not, please everyone, making well informed decisions is still key. Indeed, there is a difference between listening and waiting to talk and for many leaders, their ability to shift gears into “listening to understand” versus “listening to respond” will be a key ingredient for their success.
Smart leaders need to adapt and be prepared to change their leadership style in the post-pandemic world and as Michael Dell (the founder of Dell Computers at age 20) said “I’ve learned that you have to take advantage of change and not let it take advantage of you”.
Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19
Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19 – As many employees return to offices, employers should expect to notice some subtle changes in employee behaviour that may warrant focus for the early weeks back at work – particularly in light of potential restructures.
While the closedown has been stressful for employers, so also has the sudden separation from peers and adjustment to working remotely, in some cases under revised employment conditions & pay rates for your employees.
Employees are well aware of the challenges that employers face in the current uncertain environment – and they are aware of what that may mean for their future employment – creating a potentially stressful return to work environment for many.
Anxious employees are generally more distracted, make more errors and have less energy overall. This is a normal human response to increased levels of anxiety.
Here are our recommended actions for employers in the early stages to reassure and refocus employees.
Speak to your team as a group and as individuals.
While this may be a drain on your time, employees are reliant on you for their income and they need to know where they stand.
Commence restructure conversations as soon as possible, and be decisive about your actions and communications in this area.
People would rather know and make plans than not know and worry. The processes for restructure and redundancy is clear – the consultation & communication process takes a number of weeks, so it really is better to get your plan sorted, then executed. Be sure you remain compliant with all processes – the regulations around employment remain in place as pre COVID. Employers are obliged to follow a process with consultation & consideration.
Consider training & development opportunities
In considering your succession plan and skill gap map as part of your overall restructure planning, a period of reduced productivity for your business may be an excellent time to consider skill training for some employees to close skill gaps and test aptitude in new areas.
Enable input to innovation or pivot ideas
While this process needs to be carefully managed for expectations, high performing employees will relish the opportunity to contribute to pivot concepts for your business – these employees have most likely spend some time considering areas of opportunity during the close down. It will be fantastic for them to brainstorm ideas under supervision – and who knows, some of the ideas might be fabulous suggestions that you had not yet considered.
Enforce your operational and behavioural standards
All your employees have been absent for a lengthy period. Make sure your standards of behaviour including dress code & working hours are back in place immediately – this will give employees a sense of ‘normal’ that will help them click back into gear.
This will be reasonably easy to slide into the conversation as you reinforce new distancing & tracking protocols in place for the return to work safely guidelines.
Unless you have a reason to be absent from the workplace – and of course distancing protocols will be required, but make sure you are available for your team. While employers have had a hugely stressful time – don’t forget your entire team has also been stressed – and many of them will have been worried about you, your business and their employment. Allow people to chat and reconnect with you in their own time.
Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19