Payment available to employers if employee cannot work and is waiting for COVID-19 test results

From 9 February 2021 the COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment became available for businesses to apply for.

The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment involves a one-off payment of $350.00 to employers for each employee who is in self quarantine and unable to work from home, while they wait for the results of their COVID-19 test.

The payment will also cover employees who are household contacts who have been asked to stay at home while waiting for a close contact to get their test result.

In order for businesses to get the payment they must first have a conversation with their employee and must:

  • Check that the date of the COVID-19 test was within the last 8 weeks (but no earlier than 9 February 2021);
  • Discuss the application with their employee before making it;
  • Get the employee’s consent to the relevant points outlined in the declaration;
  • Acknowledge that they need to stay home in line with public health guidance; and
  • Confirm that they cannot work from home and therefore need to miss work to stay at home while waiting for the COVID-19 test results.

Employers need to discuss with their employee how best to support their employee. For example, the employee may choose to use existing sick or annual leave and the business could use the subsidy to help support payment of that.

Employers can make one application for each eligible employee in any 30-day period. However, an employer is able to apply for the payment again if a health official or doctor informs an employee that they must get another test.

Employers can contact the Ministry for Social Development to apply for the payment.

Minister for Workplace Relations, Michael Wood, has said that the new payment will help to reduce financial pressure on businesses and encourage them to do their part to keep COVID-19 out of the community.

This new scheme sits along side the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, which is still available for businesses to help pay employees who need to self-isolate for other COVID-19 related reasons and cannot work from home.

In combination with the proposed upcoming increase in sick leave for employees from 5 days to 10 days per year, the Government and Ministry of Health’s advice to stay home if you are feeling unwell should become easier to comply with.

Click here for other COVID-19 or Employment Law articles.

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