On 8 June the Government determined that New Zealand will move to Alert Level 1 from midnight 8 June.

This guidance is provided to assist agencies with workforce matters as they move from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1. Guidance on the health and safety and workplace considerations for moving alert levels is available from the Government Health and Safety Lead and Government Property Group.

These guidelines may be updated as further decisions are made. Always check the website for the latest version.

Key principles to guide the move to Alert Level 1

Return of staff to the workplace – Plans for Alert Level 1 should see staff returning to their usual place of work as soon as practicable.

Reset from response to recovery – The move to Alert Level 1 is a shift from response mode to recovery mode. We are changing the way we help New Zealand. In earlier alert levels we continued to deliver services and helped New Zealand to prevent community transmission of COVID-19, with many public servants working from home. Helping New Zealand in the recovery means getting staff and customers back into our workplaces.

Adhere to legislative and government requirements – Agencies must adhere to general Health and Safety at Work Act obligations. It will also be important to be aware of the public health advice for Alert Level 1.

Be prepared – The risk of further cases of COVID-19 remains. Agencies need to ensure their plans enable a quick response should there be any raising of the Alert Level in the future.

Establish or refresh flexible working policies – Alert Level 1 is about employees returning to the workplace. Arrangements agencies have had in place to support staff working from home at higher alert levels were directly linked to the requirements of the COVID-19 response phase. This is not the same as flexible working. There is a separate process underway with agencies to establish or refresh flexible work policies that fit agencies’ specific context and will be implemented over time. These policies will cover all forms of flexible working including alternative start and finish times, part-time work, as well as remote working.

Continue to engage with staff and unions – This includes involvement in planning for Alert Level 1, communicating how you will continue to keep people in the workplace safe and the development of any flexible working approach.

Key changes at Alert Level 1

  • Alert Level 1 looks like pre-COVID-19 business as usual but with public health measures and border restrictions in place.
  • Public health measures include guidance on hygiene, contact tracing, testing, isolation and quarantine for people displaying symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • There are no controls on businesses and services, gatherings, physical distancing or requirements to keep records to enable contact tracing.
  • Work can be undertaken as normal, so all employees should be working or using usual leave arrangements.
  • Vulnerable employees can work normally.
  • Public transport operates as normal.

What doesn’t change

  • If an employee is required to self-isolate, or care for a dependant who is required to self-isolate, they should work from home wherever possible. Special paid leave is available if working from home is not possible.
  • If a school or early learning centre is closed or has limited access on advice from the public health unit, special paid leave may be required in some circumstances. For example, where an employee cannot find alternative care arrangements and is unable to work from home.

General advice

Employees’ mental health and wellbeing remains an important consideration. Guidance for mental health and wellbeing in relation to COVID-19 can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website.

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