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LETS GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.

Question :
Hi therei have an employee who is refusing to work until the 12 weeks has passed from the wage subsidy. He is saying it is “because we have been paid for him” so questioning why he would need to work. It is obvious to me why but what would your response be in this situation?

Question submitted 04/05/20 @ 04:47pm
Industry: HR & Talent
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  • Hi there, I am not an HR specialist but my understanding of the subsidy is that it is to HELP you keep your staff and is paid out to help you keep your team at minimum 80% of wages. As far as I am aware – you could check with an HR specialist and the Business.org.nz website has conditions laid out. This is all not withstanding the fact that someone refusing to work purely on those ground does not perhaps align with your business values-wise? Could be a good time for a coaching conversation about why they work where they do. The wage subsidy is not intended to be a 12 week paid leave scheme. If your staff member doubts the law, respectfully point them to the conditions of the wage subsidy. Best of luck, Amanda

    Hello – the answer is that it is all normal employment laws continue to apply during the wage subsidy period. This includes the normal duty of the employee to work if the employer has work available. Requiring the employee to work is therefore a lawful and reasonable instruction. The only exception is if the person has good reason to refuse, for example, the employee is in a vulnerable category and not able to work as they fall within the MOH definition or the employer cannot meet the safe operating requirements in place at the time (currently level 3).

    Check out the below weblinks which address the fact that normal employment laws continue to apply to during the subsidy period.

    https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/other-types-of-leave/coronavirus-workplace/

    and

    https://covid19.govt.nz/businesses-and-employees/businesses-and-services/doing-business-at-alert-level-3/#how-to-do-business-safely

    and

    https://covid19.govt.nz/businesses-and-employees/businesses-and-services/employers-and-employees-working-together/

    The Government Wage Subsidy is paid as a lump-sum for the 12-week period to each business who applies for it and is successful in receiving it, as we have been. This is not an individual employee entitlement. It is to support businesses to pay salary/wages during a period of reduced revenue. For some businesses their employees will continue to work because work is available, and for some businesses some or all of their employees will not be able to work. If there is work available, similar to the requirements of your normal work, the Government and you business’ expectation is that the employee will be expected to attend work.

    The advice above has nailed it. It’s pretty simple really, they have signed an employment agreement that pays them to do a job. If they choose not to work, then they (typically) won’t get paid – whether or not the job if funded partially or fully from the wage subsidy. It’s tough enough for everyone at the moment without employees trying it on – but on the off chance something else is going on for this employee, I’d suggest you start with a conversation about whether they’re ok and how they are doing. Some people have been more affected by the lockdown period than others. If this is not typical behaviour of this employee, then start at a place of listening and compassion and see where the conversation goes. Best wishes to you.

    The advice above seems to be on point. I would always check with an employment lawyer first but I would guess there is also something else going on – as per Fiona’s statement. Perhaps try to get to the bottom of exactly why this person does not wish to work, there could be another reason beyond what they have given you which may just be an easier fix. There is a lot going on in people’s lives at the moment that can lead to illogical statements being made and some irrational behaviour – the majority of people want to return to what is viewed as normal life right now. For example it could be as simple as they need some flexibility with work hours in the short term to care for school children that need to be supported at home. Failing this then stick to the counsel provided by your legal advisor. All the best.

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