PART TWO of our three part series

In this second post of our three part series on employment issues during COVID 19 lockdown,  we once again revisit “John’s” situation and look at some of the employer obligations around Health and Safety during this time.

In our previous scenario we met John, a food delivery truck driver working for a company based out of Wellington. John lives in Palmerston North with his elderly mother but is required to stay away from home during the week in accommodation provided by his boss.

John was told by his employer to take 2 weeks annual leave and once that was finished his boss would like him to resume work.  At the end of the annual leave period John is now required to return to his normal work conditions.

Usually John returns home every Friday for the weekend where he cares for his mother, doing grocery shopping, mowing lawns and doing various other chores around her house that are difficult for her to do.

While John is happy to know he can return to work, John is worried about the risks of having to travel between his work bubble and his home bubble should the worst happen and he get COVID-19 he doesn’t want to pass it to his elderly mother.  

His employer tells him that he does not want John to return to his home on the weekends but rather stay at the work supplied accommodation until the lockdown period ends.  John is reluctant because he is concerned for his mother being on her own.

Returning to work

An employer’s obligation around this are:

The Government WorkSafe requires essential business employers to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 during the Covid19 Lockdown.

  • The employer must operate in a way that limits or eliminates the risk of spreading Covid-19.  Businesses are asked to minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions amongst staff eg through physical distancing and with and between customers, and also ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place.
  • Limiting or eliminating, if possible, physical interaction with and between workers and customers – eg contactless delivery, managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside), and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises.
  • Provide hygiene basics of hand washing and sanitisers.
  • Frequent cleaning of premises.
  • Provide protective equipment for staff as appropriate – eg gloves if touching surfaces or items touched by others, and also facemasks if, due to the nature of their job, they’re unable to maintain more than 1 metre contact distance from people with potential Covid-19 symptoms.

So when John returns to work from annual leave he should feel confident that he will not be put at risk of contracting COVID-19 because his employer would have put things (as above) in place to keep him safe while he is working.

However, his employer’s request for John to stay at the provided work accommodation and not return to his home in Palmerston North is a reasonable request to reduce the increased likelihood of spreading COVID19 during the lockdown period.

In our next blog we will continue with John’s story and what is required if an employer is receiving a government wage subsidy.

Keep safe, keep strong and take care of yourselves and each other.

Further resources that may help you on this topic:

The information in this post is intended as a guide and not intended to be legal advice and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any specific individual.  If you need legal advice, please seek advice from a legal provider.