Information for employees, including what financial help may be available to you

Employers and staff working together

Employers and employees need to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, protect New Zealand and keep each other safe.

This means that normal obligations to keep in regular contact and to act in good faith are more important than ever. This is how employers and employees can be kind to one another.

Regular employment law applies to all employment relationships – regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in. This includes anything that has been agreed to in an employment agreement.

Employment guidance is available for COVID-19-related matters, including pay and leave entitlements, the minimum wage, and modifying and terminating employment agreements.

Guidance for employers and employees(external link)

Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Wage Subsidy Scheme:

  • supports employers adversely affected by COVID-19, so that they can continue to pay their employees, and
  • supports workers to ensure they continue to receive an income, even if they are unable to work.

New Zealand employers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply. This includes:

  • registered charities
  • NGOs
  • the self-employed and sole traders
  • contractors
  • registered charities
  • incorporated societies, and
  • post-settlement governance entities.

It is also available to employers who recently let employees go because of COVID-19, provided they re-hire those employees.

To qualify:

  • the business is registered and operating in New Zealand
  • employees are legally working in New Zealand
  • the business has experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19. There are special rules for new businesses and high-growth firms
  • the business has taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • the business must retain covered employees in employment for the period of the subsidy.

The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of:

  • $585.80 for people working 20 hours or more per week
  • $350.00 for people working less than 20 hours per week.

Employers must make best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their normal income. Where that is not possible – in particular where a business has no activity whatsoever due to the shutdown and workers are not working any hours – employers must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker. If a person’s income is normally less than the subsidy, they can be paid that normal salary.

The subsidy is paid as a lump sum to the employer to pass on to employees and covers 12 weeks per employee.

The wage subsidy is a Government payment to help employers pay wages. It does not change any other employment law obligations, meaning employees must be paid appropriately under their employment agreements for the hours they work during the lockdown.

Read more information, including how to apply, on Work and Income(external link)

Wage Subsidy employer search

You can see which companies have received payments under the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme on the Work and Income website.

COVID-19 Wage Subsidy employer search(external link)

You can search for:

  • the company name as registered with Inland Revenue
  • the number of employers for whom payment has been made
  • the amount paid.

This information has been published to ensure payments under the Wage Subsidy Scheme are transparent and that the scheme is accountable to the public.

Wage Subsidy Scheme: Complaints about employers

If you believe your employer is receiving the subsidy, but not meeting the conditions they agreed to, your first step is to talk to your employer. If the issue is not resolved, you can make a complaint to Employment New Zealand.

Make a complaint about your employer(external link)

Updates to the Wage Subsidy Scheme

6 April 2020: Search function now available to find employers who have received payments under the Wage Subsidy scheme(external link)  

27 March 2020: Government modified scheme to better support workers not able to work during Alert Level 4(external link)

24 March 2020: the Government announced the removal of the $150,000 cap(external link)

Leave Payment

The Government has announced an Essential Workers COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme. It will subsidise eligible businesses, and allow them to pay those workers who need to take leave due to the COVID-19 Public Health guidance. The scheme offers the same rates as the Wage Subsidy Scheme of $585.80 per week full-time and $350.00 per week for part-time workers.

Details will be available on the Work and Income website(external link)

Overseas employees

You should check your visa if you are working in New Zealand but not a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident. Immigration New Zealand has relaxed the visa conditions and extended visas for many overseas employees.

More information about visas for employees

Additional resources

Information about workplace responses to COVID-19 at the employment.govt.nz website(external link)

Employees in essential businesses at Alert Level 4

Essential businesses, and those that support them, will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand.

This means food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste removal, internet and financial support will continue to be available.

Find out more about essential businesses

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