Question :
 Hi I’m hoping you can help us. We have a cleaning business in chch and we have been told that yes we can start work tomorrow. Now we have a staff member who is voicing she doesn’t feel safe working. Now we have the government wage subsidy but if she chooses not to come to work do we still pay her or does she need to work to get paid as we can work. We clean in schools which at this moment are empty and she will be working in 2m distance. Thank you so much for your help

Question submitted 21/04/20 @ 03:39pm
Industry: Services
  • Up

    Thank you for reaching out. Great that you can start work tomorrow. The staff member you mention will as you have said have concerns that it is not safe to work. These are valid concerns that they will have and you can reassure her that it is safe to return to work as you will be meeting all the safe working requirements including physical distancing of 2m. Your employee may still have anxiety in getting back to work. I would continue to communicate with them and reassure them of the measures you are taking contacting them a couple of times a week. I would still pay them the subsidy until they return to full time work and hopefully with the number of cases reducing and the levels moving from 4 to 3 on Monday evening and possibly to level 2 your employee will return to work shortly. All the best Tom


    Tom’s advice is really good, it is important to acknowledge people if they feel pressure or concerns about returning to work. Your commitment under the wage subsidy is to pay them a minimum of the subsidy (if not more) – if they are not able to get back to work, and you have explained the safety processes and equipment you are providing then it is probably human to understand that and work with them. You can keep communicating with them to explain that they will be safe. If after a period of time there is no change in the attitude, I would seek further advice – it might even be wise to understand your position now. HOpefully one of the special hr/talent professionals can jump in here. Andy


    You are facing a very real challenge with this employee – because to get your business moving you need people at work. If you provide this option to one person there is the chance that others may also want the same treatment.

    The precautions that are required to be taken to return to work are clear – if you walk your employee through the steps that you have taken to keep them and their bubble safe. Are there other reasons that they cannot come to work – vulnerable family members, child care issues?

    I would expect the government to merge/clarify the eligibility for the Wage Subsidy Scheme with the Essential Workers Leave Payment Scheme within the next week. The essential workers scheme has clear guidelines of when workers are eligible for the subsidy and top up – this meant for many that unless there was a good reason if they chose not to come to work they would not get paid.

    The NZ police took a strong stance with people that could work but were choosing not to in the early days of Level 4 – though I can’t find the article now.

    In our business we took our time on these issues – letting the employee know that we would follow the rules but they were unclear. We revised our position as the guidelines/programs were put in place by the government.

    In the short term is there the option to pay the subsidy only, revising every week until the rules are clarified.

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