COVID-19 leave support for workers extended

Carmel Sepuloni Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly.

Workers at higher risk from COVID-19 are being supported through an expansion of the COVID-19 leave support scheme ahead of the move to alert level three, say government ministers.

Under the broadened criteria, the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme will be available to all businesses, organisations, and self-employed people, not just essential services. The other criteria remain the same including that businesses must be experiencing hardship due to COVID-19.

It covers workers who are unable to work from home and need to self-isolate. This could be because they, or someone in their bubble, are sick, have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 or are at higher risk of becoming severely sick if they contract COVID-19. The weekly rates of the scheme will remain at $585.80 for full-time workers and $350 for part-time workers.

“The number of people expected to return to work will double at alert level three. We know many workers at higher risk may feel pressure to start working too. This expanded scheme means more workers who need to stay home to break the chain of transmission can do so and continue to maintain an income. It also gives more businesses support to protect their people and keep them employed,” says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway

“By ensuring no-one who is at risk, or has people in their bubble at risk, needs to go to work the government is supporting communities to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says that the expanded COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme will be open for applications from Friday 1 May, and will continue to be administered by the Ministry of Social Development. Applications received for Essential Workers Leave Support prior to the shift to alert level three will continue to be processed and approved.

“Employees and employers should work together to identify if employees are eligible for the support, and agree what their leave and pay arrangements will be during the self-isolation period.”

Payments will be for four weeks, with the option for businesses to re-apply for those same workers after four weeks, or make further applications for additional workers who are eligible at any time, while the scheme remains open.

An employer who has previously received Essential Workers Leave Support for an employee will need to wait until the four-week period of that payment has ended before applying for the same person under the Leave Support Scheme. Employers also cannot receive the Leave Support Scheme and the Wage Subsidy for the same person.

Employees who are on other forms of paid leave should be paid at their usual full rates of pay. The state sector is excluded from the scheme.

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