On Friday 27 August, the Government announced that every region in New Zealand, south of the Auckland border, will move to Alert Level 3.

While it’s likely that Auckland will remain at Alert Level 4 for two further weeks, this information is yet to be confirmed by the Government.

Currently, the Government is reviewing the doing business at Alert Level 3 page in preparation for the decrease in Levels this week. However, there are a couple of new requirements that we already know about:

  1. Mask-wearing is mandatory for workers dealing with customers at Level 3; and
  2. Travel between Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 3 locations for work purposes isn’t permitted unless an individual is an essential worker and must travel for work. These employees will need Business Travel Documents from MBIE that are available from Sunday 29 August 2021. Learn more about the rules on travel limitations and how to apply for Business Travel Documents here. If your workers need these, you should apply as soon as possible.

To help you begin to prepare your business for a drop in Levels, we take a look at what Alert Level 3 previously meant for employers.

What businesses could open at Level 3?

Workplaces could only open at Level 3 if they were providing an essential service or if workers couldn’t work from home, and the workplace could satisfy specific requirements including that:

  • They were “operating safely” (such as maintaining one metre of physical distance between all staff at all times where practical);
  • Customers were not allowed on premises (with exceptions for supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies and permitted health services); and
  • Businesses could trade providing there was no physical contact with customers (so takeaways, click and collect services, and contactless services were okay to operate).

Workers had to stay at home if they were sick, and if possible, they had to work from home.

How could businesses operate safely at Level 3?

Employees could only attend a workplace and work if employers had taken all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of employees and others. Employers first needed to determine whether it was safe to have everyone at work or only some workers could return. Then, to ensure the health and safety of workers, customers and visitors at Level 3, businesses implemented some or all of the below steps:

  • reintroducing rigorous hygiene measures;
  • regular cleaning of common areas;
  • physical distancing, mask-wearing;
  • contact tracing for all visitors;
  • appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • encouraging “high-risk” people to stay at home where possible;
  • putting up physical barriers where necessary; and
  • sending people home who have cold or flu symptoms.

The information in this update aims to provide an overview of the employment law requirements under the COVID-19 Alert Levels and is shared with the help of our law partner, LangtonHudsonButcher (LHB). LHB are an Auckland-based specialist employment law and litigation firm. They work with the HR Assured team to ensure every legal template, document, and checklist in HRA Cloud is compliant.

Last time New Zealand experienced an increase in Alert Levels to Level 3, we created a helpful workplace checklist. We’ll be publishing an up-to-date checklist as soon as more information is available!

If you have any questions about the information in this article, feel free to contact the team at HR Assured.

For HR Assured clients, contact our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

Not an HR Assured client and need some advice? The team at HR Assured can support your business on a range of workplace matters. Contact us today to arrange a confidential, no-obligation chat.