A return to Level 2 means most employers will be back in business; people can return to work and all businesses and services can reopen if public health rules are followed.
This Level 2 looks a little different to the last time. With the Delta variant in our midst, the Government has introduced some tighter rules to reduce the risk of another outbreak, these are:
- Group gatherings are now limited to 50 people indoors and 100 in any defined outdoor space.
- Face masks or coverings are mandatory for many employees in customer-facing, public-facing, and close contact services.
- Contact tracing for everyone over the age of 12 will become a requirement for busy places or events (you must have your business’s QR code and a paper-based form of contact tracing accessible).
- Physical distancing between customers, clients, and members of the public must be two metres or one metre in workplaces that are closed to the public. In places where there’s a cap on the number of people who can be present already – such as cafes, restaurants, and bars – customers and clients only need to keep one metre apart.
- Business travel within Alert Level 2 regions is permitted, but travel between Alert Level 2 and 4 remains restricted. Only essential workers who must travel across a Level 4 border for work can do so. They must provide valid travel documents and will need to take a COVID-19 test every seven days. You can find more information here.
To help you manage your workplace during Delta Level 2, the team at HR Assured has shared a collection of practical tips below.
Tips for managing people
- Reiterate the important reminder that anyone who is feeling unwell must stay home and contact the COVID-19 Healthline to all staff.
- Make sure you have the correct contact and emergency contact details recorded on every employee personnel file.
- Establish a central source of truth for regular updates to staff about changing Government requirements to staff; for example, your company intranet, an employee self-service portal, or an email address that your employees can easily reference.
- Re-communicate hygiene and infection control policies to staff.
- Ensure you communicate your business’s process should any employee need to isolate due to potential exposure to COVID-19. For example, what to do if your employee is sick and isolating, feeling well but unable to work from home, well and able to work from home.
- Financial pressure can influence whether your staff stay home when unwell. Consider implementing a flexible leave or working arrangement to mitigate this, so your employees can stay home if at risk.
Managing health and safety at work
- Implement physical distancing markers to help customers and clients to keep two metres apart and to help staff keep one metre apart on your business premises.
- Encourage all workers to stay home if displaying any flu-like symptoms.
- Ramp up hygiene promotion by providing information sheets and posters that promote handwashing, discourage sharing of tools, and encourage wiping down of shared spaces after use.
- Look at organising more stringent or frequent cleaning processes, especially in shared spaces or areas where clients or customers frequently visit (like waiting rooms, restaurant tables and bars).
- Keep spare disposable masks onsite for customer and public-facing workers just in case they forget their own!
- Refresh and reshare information regularly on hygiene requirements and services such as your employee assistance programme (EAP) to keep safe practices and well-being front of mind.
- Remember that changing workplace practices can create new risks to health and safety. Involve your workers in consultation to identify and minimise these new risks.
- Review your return-to-work process for workers who’ve been tested and cleared of COVID-19 or are no longer symptomatic.
- Develop a Level 2 plan that clearly outlines the H&S process to follow if someone at your workplace (worker or customer) falls ill, and what your business will need to do if someone who has been on your workplace premises contracts COVID-19.
- Make sure your Infection Control at Work Policy is up to date and covers how your business will deal with COVID-19.
Head to Worksafe for more information on managing your health and safety under COVID-19 restrictions.
Workplace systems and technology
- Check that your staff have access to the right hardware and online infrastructure to work remotely during Alert Level 2.
- Review your IT security protocols to mitigate risk in a remote working environment.
Managing customers and suppliers
- Check-in with your suppliers and, if required, identify alternative suppliers just in case COVID-19 disrupts your current supply chain.
- Communicate any delays or changes in service or product to your customers and suppliers due to the alert level change.
- Ensure that you have a plan for providing your products and services remotely or via contactless solutions.
- Ensure a copy of the Government QR code is available in all spaces, including vehicles, for all suppliers, clients, and the public to scan when on your business premises.
- Make sure you have a paper-based contact tracing system easily accessible for people to use in place of the QR code if necessary.
- Display signs and posters to promote two-metre physical distancing between all persons in your workplace.
- Think about how you will make QR codes and safety protocols accessible to customers with disabilities. For example, QR codes should be at an accessible height, and you may need a way of communicating requirements to those people with a sight or hearing impairment.
- Manage customer entry and exit of your workplace to monitor the number of people coming in and out. Gatherings are limited to up to 100 people during Alert Level 2.
- Set up and encourage contactless payment options.
Regulation and Government support
- Establish a method of communicating the most up-to-date health advice to keep ALL staff informed of any changes to public and business requirements.
- Identify the go-to people in your business to seek advice from when interpreting any employment or workplace law. They may be internal or outsourced advisors like the team at HR Assured.
- Develop a succession plan in the unlikely event (remembering that COVID-19 is an unpredictable beast) that your whole team or critical persons in your business are out of action due to isolation, falling sick or exposure to the virus. You want to avoid a complete closure of your business if possible.
- The Government currently has two financial support schemes operating to provide leave support for businesses and employees: COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme and the Short-term Absence Payment. Both have different application criteria, and it may be worth looking into these for your business.
- Applications are now open until 16 September 2021 for a further two-week Wage Subsidy: the ‘Wage Subsidy August 2021 #2’. To reapply and review the updated Wage Subsidy #2 declaration, you should use this form on the Work and Income website. At this stage, we recommend you inform your employees and obtain their consent before you apply.
- For more guidance on the financial support available for businesses during a COVID-19 lockdown, read this blog.
Preparation is a key element for business resilience in our COVID-19 world. This checklist should help you prepare for Alert Level 2. You can find tips on managing your workplace through Alert Level 3 here, and a Level 4 checklist for employers here.
For our clients, we want you to know that the Telephone Advisory Service is here to support you so you can continue your day-to-day business and navigating your recovery. You can also access the following COVID-19 related templates to help you manage COVID-19 related workplace changes:
- Home-based Work Health & Safety Checklist;
- Working from Home Policy;
- Work from Home Arrangement;
- Employee Induction Checklists (eSS and Standard Versions) with additional steps to help you implement working from home arrangements; and
- Coronavirus Infection and Control Policy.
Each of these policies can be created in HRA Cloud and .
If you’re not a client, but you’re looking for advice on the COVID-19 alert levels for your workplace, contact our friendly team of experts for a confidential chat.
This article is intended to be used as a guide for employers and should not replace official Government guidance.