Currently, Northland and Auckland regions are in Alert Level 4 and the rest of New Zealand is in Alert Level 2 until further evaluation on until Monday 13th September. Taranaki Chamber has provided the following information:

It’s not quite the old Alert Level 2 measures; because of the Delta variant, there are extra safety measures for businesses.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Public-facing staff must wear face coverings. It’s recommended that employees who are not public-facing wear a face covering if they are in close contact with others.
  • Face coverings are mandatory for customers; but at hospitality places, customers can take their mask or face covering off to eat and drink.
  • Everyone must record their visit, and mandatory record-keeping will be required at busy places and events. This is so contact tracing can happen quickly and may help prevent Alert Level changes. This comes into effect from tonight, 11:59 pm Tuesday 7 September.
  • There is a limit of 50 people for indoor gatherings, such as at hospitality and event venues. The outdoor limit is 100 people.
  • Social distancing at larger venues will change to being 2 metres, such as at gyms, museums, swimming pools, and libraries. Employees must be 1 metre apart and customers in retail businesses 2 metres apart.

What is a ‘busy place or event?’ More on mandatory record-keeping

From Tuesday 7 September 11.59 pm mandatory record-keeping is required if you are: a cafe, restaurant, bar or nightclub; an aged care facility; a health care facility; a close-contact personal care service — for example, a hairdresser or beautician; an exercise facility — for example a gym or swimming pool; an entertainment venue — for example a cinema or theatre; an indoor public facility where people gather — museums or libraries; a court or tribunal; a local and central government agency or a social services provider with customer service counters; organising a wedding, funeral, tangihanga or faith-based service; organising a concert; having a gathering or hui at a marae.If you are the person in charge, you legally must make sure you have safe and secure systems and processes in place so that everyone working on or visiting your premises can scan in or provide their details in an electronic or paper-based manual process, no matter how long they are there for. This includes workers, contractors, customers, and volunteers. Your system for recording customers and visitors can include: 

  • Asking people to scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app
  • Recording your customers’ and visitors’ details manually
  • Providing paper forms for customers and visitors to fill in with their details and place in a collection box
  • Using your existing record-keeping systems, such as swipe-card access or appointment bookings.

All businesses must still continue to display their QR code poster, even if they are not required to collect customer records.

Working across the Auckland regional boundary– NEW weekly surveillance testing

With a travel boundary continuing to operate with Auckland, weekly surveillance testing of essential workers crossing the boundary will be put in place. The government is still working through the details.

Applications for the second COVID-19 Wage Subsidy are now open

Applications for the first round of COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 closed last Friday. Applications for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021 #2 are now open for two weeks until 11.59 pm Thursday 16 September 2021. If you applied for the first round of the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy in August 2021, you will need to wait until two weeks after the date you applied for the first round before you can apply for the second round. If you apply earlier than this, your application for the new subsidy may be declined by MSD.

Locations of interest
There are a number of locations of interest, throughout Auckland and the Coromandel region. Please see here for the locations of interest.

Financial support for business
Ministry of Social Development’s Wage Support Scheme is now open, you can apply here, and the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme and the Short-Term Absence Payment is also available. Note you cannot get more than one COVID-19 payment for the same employee at the same time. Inland Revenue’s Resurgence Support Payment will be open from Tuesday 24 August.

Mandatory individual record-keeping under all alert levels, such as scanning QR codes or manually signing in at events and business locations, will be required. From the Minister’s comments, it appears that some businesses will be required to enforce individuals to comply as  “those responsible for businesses and events will need to ensure people keep a record when they visit, either by scanning QR codes with the Covid-19 Tracer App or making a manual record”. Given some businesses appear to be responsible for enforcement, and this is different from other safety requirements such as requiring face coverings, we are urgently seeking clarification about what this means. We are also clarifying what date this will take effect from, currently “effective seven days after any change in alert level settings”, and we will provide further guidance. 
 
For a map of New Zealand’s current alert levels, visit the Unite against COVID-19 website.
New Zealand Alert Level boundary map(external link) – covid19.govt.nz
Business travel over an Alert Level 4 and 3 boundary(external link) – covid19.govt.nz

For more information on how your business can operate at different alert levels, head to business.govt.nz – Workplace operations at COVID-19 Alert Levels

Wear a mask. Look after yourselves, friends and family, and look after your team.

Kia kaha.

FAQs from the 0800 500 362 Covid Business Helpline:

Q: What businesses are Alert Level 4 services?
These are a number of business and organisations vital to providing goods, services and keeping us safe. The latest on Alert Level 4 businesses and services, and information about how you can support your workers can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website here. 

Q. Can I use the same reference number I received last time, to operate my business under Alert Level 4?
Although MPI ran an essential service register last time the country was under Alert Level 4, they are not doing that this time. Instead, businesses need to check whether they meet the definition of an Alert Level 4 business or service by checking the Business.govt.nz website, here. The responsibility for complying with the rules for operating at Alert Level 4 lies with businesses and individuals.

Q. What is the process around freight?
All freight can enter and leave the country. The Transport website is very helpful here.  
No restrictions on the movement of freight, including inter-regionally. All freight can be distributed and received. Public health measures apply at workplaces and operators should be vigilant, where possible, numbers of staff involved in the movement of freight should be kept to a minimum.

Q. What is the Wage Subsidy Scheme and when can I apply?
Applications for the Wage Subsidy Scheme are now open, with applications initially open for two weeks. You’ll be able to apply on the Work and Income website, here

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. The Wage Subsidy will be available to eligible businesses, organisations and the self-employed impacted by the move to Alert Level 4 on 17 August 2021.

To reflect higher wage costs since the scheme was first used in March 2020 the payments have been increased to:
• $600 per week per full-time employee
• $359 per week per part-time employee.

Q. What is the Resurgence Support Payment and when can I apply?
Applications for the alert level increase announced on 17 August will open at 8am on Tuesday 24 August 2021. You’ll be able to apply on the Inland Revenue website, here. 

The Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) is a payment to help support viable and ongoing businesses or organisations due to a COVID-19 alert level increase to level 2 or higher. If your business or organisation is facing a reduction in revenue due to an alert level increase, you may be eligible for the RSP. A business or organisation must have experienced at least a 30% drop in revenue or a 30% decline in capital-raising ability over a seven-day period, due to the increased COVID-19 alert level (subject to all other criteria being met). This decrease in revenue or capital-raising ability is compared with a typical seven-day revenue period in the six weeks prior to the increase from Alert Level 1.

When the RSP is activated, eligible businesses and organisations can apply to receive the lesser of:
• $1,500 plus $400 per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, up to a maximum of 50 FTEs
• Four times (4x) the actual revenue decline experienced by the applicant.

Q. What about the Leave Support Scheme – is that still available?
Yes. If you, or your staff have been told by a health official to self-isolate and cannot work from home, you can apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme provides a payment to businesses to pay their workers who meet certain health criteria, e.g. they have COVID-19. This is also available if you’re self-employed. This support will be paid as a lump sum covering two weeks (you can reapply if required) of $585.50 per week for full-time workers and $350 per week for part-time workers. From 24 August 2021, the payment will increase to $600 per week for full-time workers and $359 per week for part-time workers. You can apply for the Leave Support Scheme on the Work and Income website, here. 

Q. What other support is available?
Other support includes Short-term Absence Payment, Small Business Cash Flow Loan Scheme and Tax and ACC support. Detailed information is available at MBIE’s Business website, here. 

Q. Is a mask mandatory for staff in the businesses or services operating at Alert Level 4?
Face coverings are mandatory for both customers and staff at supermarkets, pharmacies, healthcare facilities, service stations and when waiting for and on public transport. Passengers and drivers of taxis and ride shares must also wear a face covering. This is about ensuring those workers are protected and ensuring those who visit are too.

Q. Some of my customers are not wearing masks and do not scan their codes. Aside from encouraging them to do so, what are my obligations here?
At this stage the obligations are over the business. Think through the impact on your staff and your brand when developing these.

Q. Is anyone exempt from wearing a face covering?
Some people cannot wear a mask for genuine reasons – such as a health issue which makes mask-wearing impractical. This is a high-trust system and we trust people to do the right thing. Wearing a face covering is about keeping yourself and others safe. Current exemptions for face coverings remain, including (but not limited to) for people under the age of 12 or with physical or mental illness or conditions or disability that makes wearing a face covering unsuitable.

Q. What enforcement will be in place?
Existing enforcements options including infringement notices will apply to the additional locations face coverings are now required. Any non-compliance should be reported to Police via 105.

Q. What about online shopping?
At Alert Level 4, some retail stores can sell essential non-food consumer products. These include items to help New Zealanders work or study from home, items to people remain healthy and safe while staying in their bubble — for example, bedding, whiteware or appliances, medicinal and hygiene products or items that help them stay connected with family and whānau. All orders will be contactless, including payment and delivery.

Q. What goods are considered essential non-food consumer products?
Essential non-food consumer products mean products that are necessary during the duration of Alert Level 4 for people to:
• Remain healthy and safe while isolating
• Work or study from home
• Stay in communication with whānau and friends and remain up to date with news and health information.

Q. What goods are considered essential non-food consumer products?
You can find the detailed information through MBIE’s website here.

Q. Can you move between regions at Alert Level 4?
Travel is restricted under Alert Level 4. Personal travel, including the use of cars or public transport will not be permitted outside of territorial authority and is only allowed for essential personal movement, such as travel to a supermarket, pharmacy etc. Workers for Alert Level 4 services are exempt from the restriction when travelling to work. Should the Alert Levels change, look at the COVID-19 website here. 

Q. Some of my staff don’t want to be vaccinated.  What are my options?
This can be difficult to navigate, especially if the unvaccinated person is vocal within your work environment. The COVID-19 vaccination is free, available to all New Zealanders and it is not mandatory. You can’t force someone to get vaccinated. You can make it as easy as possible for them to get vaccinated eg by giving them paid time off to get vaccinated. Read more here. If you think particular work needs to be done only by vaccinated workers, on health and safety grounds, you must first do a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment. This assessment needs to be done in collaboration with workers, unions and other representatives.

When carrying out a risk assessment, you’ll need to consider: the likelihood of workers being exposed to COVID-19 while performing the role, and the potential consequences of that, eg community transmission. WorkSafe has more detailed guidance on risk assessments here.

Get legal advice if you think particular work in your business needs to be done only by vaccinated workers. At present, this is likely to apply to only a small number of roles, so it will be important to take advice and document what is relevant for your business.
Employers need to be aware that existing employment law obligations still apply. This includes: making changes to terms and conditions of employment by agreement, engaging in consultation in good faith, avoiding unlawful discrimination against workers on the basis of vaccination status, and not taking actions which might unjustifiably disadvantage workers on the basis of vaccination status.

Employment NZ has more detailed guidance on employment implications of COVID-19 vaccination here.