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What are my entitlements to paid leave?

By Aimee Elia - 14 May 2020

New Zealand entered alert level 2 at 11.59 pm last night and with that change, most businesses will be able to open their doors to customers for the first time in six weeks. Schools are also set to welcome back students as of Monday 18 May. While the relaxation of restrictions are welcome, we are not entirely out of the woods yet. Businesses and schools will have strict health and safety management plans in place to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. For some people, this will mean they cannot attend work/school if they are unwell, or until they have been tested and cleared for the virus.

If your workplace has reopened but you cannot attend because you are awaiting test results or you have been in close contact with a person who has been confirmed to have the virus, you will undoubtedly be considering whether you're entitled to paid leave while you are away from work.

If you are absent from work because you or one of your dependants is sick, you should have your leave paid in accordance with the Holidays Act or as provided for by the Leave Subsidy Scheme outlined below.

If you are entitled to sick leave, this should be paid as per usual. If you are not entitled to sick leave you can discuss with your employer whether special paid leave is available or you might request annual leave instead.

If you have no entitlement to sick leave or annual leave, your leave may be unpaid unless your employer can access the Leave Support Scheme which has now been extended from essential businesses, to all businesses that meet the eligibility criteria.

Your employer may be able to access the Leave Support Scheme if you:

  1. Are at higher risk if you get COVID-19;
  2. Come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and as a result, must self-isolate for 14 days;
  3. Have tested positive for COVID-19 and must remain at home until cleared by a health professional; or
  4. Have household members who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19.

Employers can apply to Work and Income for assistance in paying wages for a four week period at the same rate as the Wage Subsidy Scheme if they, and the employee, meet the criteria for the scheme. However, they cannot apply for both the Wage Subsidy and Leave Subsidy for the same employee at the same time.

Your employer is required to discuss this with you and obtain your consent prior to applying for the subsidy.

This note is only an overview of your options. If you have a specific concerns, we recommend you seek legal advice.


Aimee Elia

Claire Mansell


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