Also refer to the State Services Workforce Pandemic Planning Guidance

Leave and pay

1. Is there paid special leave for employees in self-isolation?

Yes. Paid special leave is for an employee self-isolating in line with Ministry of Health advice, where it is not practicable for the employee to work from home.

2. What if someone doesn’t have any sick leave left?

If the employee is sick and unable to work, they should use their accumulated sick leave entitlement. If an employee is sick (or caring for a sick dependent) with COVID-19 and has insufficient sick/dependent leave they may anticipate further sick/dependent leave or receive additional discretionary leave/paid special leave (i.e. continue to be paid).

If an employee is well enough to work from home, they should be paid as normal.

3. Should agencies stand down all contractors?

Agencies should assess the priority of the work being carried out by the contractor.If it is priority work, working from home arrangements that meet H&S requirements should be considered. Agencies should refer to the contracts for services they have with individual contractors when considering what to do in the case that working from home is not feasible.

4. Are contractors eligible for sick pay?

Agencies should refer to the contracts for services they have with individual contractors.If contractors are sick, their usual arrangements should apply.

The Government’s COVID-19 leave payment scheme is available to self-employed contractors, employees of contracting organisations and sole-traders.

5. Can State Sector employers access the Government’s Leave Payment Scheme?

No. The scheme is not intended for State Sector employers. The SSC’s guidance outlines the leave and payment approach that should be taken for employees in various scenarios, including self-isolation.

6. Some of our employees have rostered overtime, generally rostered ahead by about two weeks.Our usual practice in relation to sick leave is to include payment for the unworked rostered overtime for the period. What approach should we take for special leave when an employee is self-isolated?

Should a staff member be sick – or caring for a family member (with Covid-19), they would be entitled to their normal sick leave which would include the payment for un-worked rostered overtime. If they are self-isolating, they would be on special leave with pay (or working from home if they were able), and therefore the rostered overtime payment does not apply.

Health and safety

7. What are our health and safety obligations for people who are unable to work from home, e.g. caseworkers, shift workers, frontline emergency services; and what do we need to do to protect them?

Agencies (as Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs)) still have an obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to eliminate or manage risks to workers, so far as is reasonably practicable. Agencies should use a risk assessment process to assess the level of risk to workers, identify appropriate controls to protect them, and regularly check the performance of these controls. WorkSafe has advice is here which includes links to the Ministry of Health’s guidance on infectious disease prevention and control for workplaces.

In frontline roles that provide essential services, where elimination or isolation is not an option (i.e. the service cannot be provided over the phone or in a non-contact setting), agencies may consider whether there are controls that can provide physical distance between the worker and client – e.g. physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, drive through windows etc. Work practices that can reduce the duration, frequency or intensity of exposure should also be explored.

Agencies should also ensure they identify workers who may be at an elevated or increased risk (e.g. immunocompromised, older workers, etc), and determine if there are additional controls or actions to minimise the risk to those workers. In some cases, this may mean providing additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), altering their exposure to the risk, or providing alternative duties.

8. What do we need to do about managing key person risk?

Key person risks should be identified in your Business Continuity Plan.

Reporting and data

9. Agencies already have staff in self-isolation – should they already be collecting the information?Will the SSC be asking for this information?

As you know, the SSC has system-wide responsibility to make sure the State Services’ workforce continues to deliver critical public services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.As part of this role, SSC will be monitoring and reporting on key workforce issues such as staff absence levels and how critical services are functioning.

The first stage in this process is establishing a baseline of unplanned staff absences and an understanding of critical services provided by State Services.The SSC is not currently asking for information about staff who are self-isolating, however, some of the data for staff absence will include staff in self-isolation.

10. Will the SSC be asking agencies to provide retrospective staff absence data?

Yes, the SSC will be asking agencies to provide “benchmark” staff absence data for the week of 23 March 2020 as well as staff absence data for the previous 12 months as a comparison.

11. Our agency has only been in existence since December.What estimates for sick, domestic and special leave for each calendar month should we use?

You should provide estimates for other months based on the information that you have. One approach is to take the average of months you have data for and apply them for the other months.Another is to take the highest rate you have seen in the summer months and apply to the other months, as you could assume that those months will have higher absence rates than in summer.

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