COVID-19: leave payment scheme extended | Employment Law Update May

At the beginning of April, the government announced that help would be given to essential businesses with workers who are unable to work for a variety of COVID-related reasons. That assistance is to be extended to all businesses, organisations and self-employed people, other than the state sector. The payment will be called “the COVID-19 Leave Payment”.

An enterprise is thereby assisted to pay workers who are unable to work from home and need to self-isolate. It 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 remain at $585.80 for full-time workers (20 hours or more per week) and $350 for part-time workers (less than 20 hours). This will enable more workers who need to stay home to break the chain of transmission to do so. For businesses, the criteria remain the same, including that, due to COVID-19, the business must have experienced a minimum of a 30% decline in revenue or otherwise had its ability to support an employee negatively affected because of the public health restrictions.

The expanded scheme will be open for applications from Friday, 1 May 2020. Payments will be for four weeks, with the option for businesses to re-apply for those same workers after that time. Applications relating to eligible employees can be made at any time while the scheme is in force.

Essential businesses needing to make an application right now can continue with the current Essential Workers Leave Support application process.

All businesses wishing to apply for such assistance are urged to talk first with an affected employee to see how best to support them. The employee might choose to use existing sick or annual leave and the payment could be used to support paying that. If fully paid leave options are not available, the subsidy could be used to top up what is available. Businesses must make every effort to pay the employee at least 80% of their usual wages. At the very least, they must be paid the applicable payment rate. (If the employee’s usual wages are less than the leave support applicable to their number of hours of work, they should be paid their usual wages. Work and Income say that any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff — “the Leave Support is designed to keep your employees connected to you”.

Information reproduced with permission of Wolters Kluwer

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