Question :
Kia ora, I have a question about paying the wage sudsidy now we are on level 2. I have casual staff and have rostered them on but one is saying they are unavailable to work. Do they still get the wage sudsidy or do they get no pay as it is their choice they can not work that week?  

Question submitted 14/05/20 @ 04:06pm
Industry: People & Culture
  • Up

    Couple of responses here for you:

    Q – Am I entitled to the subsidy whether or not I am working?

    A – 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 an individual’s normal work, the Government and the business expectation is that the person will be expected to attend work.

    Q – Can your staff refuse to return to work?

    Here is a good reference point…



    If the employer has ensured all reasonable and practicable health and safety measures are in place before the business reopens, then the employer has the right to require all workers to come back to the worksite. But they must take concrete steps to allay their workers’ fears.

    “The question in all potentially hazardous circumstances is whether the PCBU [person conducting a business or undertaking] is doing enough, and whether the worker has ‘reasonable grounds’ to refuse to go to work based on serious, immediate or imminent exposure to COVID-19,” said Greg Cain and Richard Monigatti, lawyers at Dentons Kensington Swan.

    While employers begin to introduce additional precautionary measures, they are also encouraged to approach employee requests to remain at home on a case-by-case basis.

    If a worker or a member of their household has health issues that put them at a higher risk of contracting the disease, then the employer and employee should evaluate whether the employee can report for duty “in a way that appropriately manages the risk,” Employment New Zealand said.

    “During this discussion, it is important that employers consider their duty of good faith towards their employees, obligations under the Human Rights Act about not disadvantaging people with a health condition, and their obligation to keep workers safe,” the agency wrote.

    “If the worker and employer agree that it is not possible for them to safely continue working,” the agency said, “both parties should agree what their leave arrangements will be and the employer should apply for support on the worker’s behalf.”

    Workers who are entitled to the leave support scheme include the following:
    1. Those who tested positive for COVID-19
    2. Those who came in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19
    3. Those whose dependents fall under the first two categories
    4. Those who face a higher risk, or who have household members who face a higher risk, of catching the virus
    5. The fourth category includes “workers with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, people undergoing dialysis, liver disease, [and] those over 70 years of age, particularly with underlying health conditions,” said Employment New Zealand, citing the criteria set by the Ministry of Health.


    Kia ora, typically if you have offered work to your casual employee, and they make themselves unavailable to work, then they do not get paid (subsidy or normal wages). If they are unable to work because they are vulnerable under the criteria Ken outlined above, and they would normally work regularly for you, then I would encourage you to pay them the subsidy – but you are not obliged to do so. It would make you a good human though. And remember that if you have received the subsidy for an employee that you then don’t pay, you are likely to need to repay it. If in doubt, you should contact MSD to explain your specific circumstances and get their advice. All the best, Fiona

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