As the total number of coronavirus infected persons increase to a total of 39 with 11 more new cases detected on Friday, March 19, many members of the migrant community who are currently in self-isolation are getting a confusing response from their employers on their wages and leave entitlement during the self-isolation.

The Indian Weekender has spoken to a few members of the Kiwi-Indian community who are struggling to get accurate information on this important issue while they negotiate through their self-isolation.

Ritesh Patel (name changed), a production engineer, working in the food industry told the Indian Weekender that he was in self isolation after returning back from overseas.

“My employer had advised me to use my accrued annual leave to compensate the period of leave,” Mr Patel said.

“I am not clear about the new rules and therefore unsure about agreeing to use my accrued leaves,” Mr Patel said.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has set aside $126 million subsidy for self-isolation and coronavirus leave support in the $12.1 billion economic package to combat Covid-19 impact.

Notably, according to the government’s announcement every eligible fulltime employee can get a maximum of $585.80 per week.

Also there is no requirement on the employee to first use their accrued leave to become eligible for getting government’s coronavirus leave subsidy.

Employers will have to apply and get the subsidy on behalf of employees.

Here is the more information

Leave Payment

From 17 March 2020 the COVID-19 Leave Payment will be available to support people financially if they:

  • need to self-isolate (as determined by the Ministry of Health guidelines),
  • cannot work because they are sick with COVID-19, or
  • cannot work because they are caring for dependents who are required to self-isolate or are sick with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Leave Payment will be available for 8 weeks from 17 March 2020. Employers will be able to apply for this more than once.

It will be paid to employers who have eligible employees and they must pass the payment onto their employees in full.

Who can get it?

If you're an employer, contractor, sole trader or self-employed, you may qualify to get the COVID-19 Leave Payment.

COVID-19 Leave Payment covers full-time, part-time and casual employees, and contractors who are legally working in New Zealand and who:

  • need to self isolate in line with Ministry of Health Guidelines and have registered as needing to self-isolate with Healthline, cannot work from home and their self-isolation is not because they left NZ since the travel restrictions on 16 March 2020 and have since returned or
  • cannot work because the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • cannot work because they are caring for dependents who are required to self-isolate or who are sick with COVID-19

How much you can get?

The COVID-19 leave payment will be paid at a flat rate of:

  • $585.80 to a person working 20 hours or more per week
  • $350.00 to a person working less than 20 hours per week.

Employers receiving the payment for employees who are required to self-isolate can receive it for 14 days. As people may be required to self-isolate more than once, employers will be able to apply for this on an ‘as needed’ basis. It can be paid for the entire period an employee is sick (or looking after a dependent person who is sick) with COVID-19 but the employer must apply every 14 days.

Using paid leave entitlements or COVID-19 Leave Payment when self isolating?

You and your employee can agree to use any form of paid leave (eg annual leave) to cover their period of self-isolation.

However, employees aren’t required to have used any or all their paid leave entitlements before they can receive this payment.

Eligible employers and employees

When applying for the Leave Payment the employer will consider whether:

  • the employee was legally working for their employer at the time they decide to self-isolate; and
  • they were expected to work for the period of self-isolation.

Self-employed people who are legally working in New Zealand are eligible for the payment if they:

  • are usually earning the minimum wage when they decide to self-isolate; and
  • were expecting to work for the period of self-isolation; and
  • cannot draw an income for the period of self-isolation.

Some people aren’t eligible for the payment, including:

  • self-employed people not earning at least the minimum wage
  • people not legally working in New Zealand

State sector employers cannot receive the payment as it is expected they will pay employees their normal wages through periods of self-isolation. State sector employers include: Government agencies, crown entities eg Kainga Ora, ACC.

The following employers can access the COVID-19 Leave Payment:

  • Councils
  • Kindergartens
  • Early Childcare Centres
  • Non-Government organisations
  • Tertiary Education Institutions, eg:
    • Universities
    • Polytechnics/Institutes of Technology
    • Wananga