Good Business: Employer Obligations and the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

Process Process Process – Employer Obligations

As the government imposes vaccination mandates and as more employers become affected by them, employers cannot forget basic employment law obligations. A recent Employment Court decision highlights how important it is to follow process even though there is a vaccination mandate in place. In WXN v Auckland International Airport Ltd [2021] NZEmpC 205, Judge Corkill was disappointed that Auckland International Airport (“AIA”) failed to consider WXN’s proposal as to how he could continue to work. In a letter from AIA to WXN, AIA simply stated that they respected WXN’s proposal but AIA was not in a position to engage with affected workers without a vaccination, post the date the mandate required employees to get a vaccination.

Judge Corkill found that WXN’s claim that AIA’s process was inadequate is arguable and the steps AIA had taken were not those which could be expected of a fair and reasonable employer. WXN’s advocate also argued that due to WXN’s disability, AIA had an obligation under good faith to consider WXN’s proposal, to which Judge Corkill agreed.

WXN also raised with AIA that the vaccine could affect his existing medical condition. AIA failed to consult with WXN. Good faith obligations were still owed to WXN even though notice of termination of employment had been given but had not taken effect yet. Judge Corkill found that it is arguable that a fair and reasonable employer could be expected to have consulted with WXN in light of its good faith obligations.

In light of the above, on an interim basis, Judge Corkill reinstated WXN to his former position at AIA subject to conditions. This case reconfirms the importance of process and an employer’s duty of good faith, even though a vaccination mandate may be in place.

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

If you are an employer and one of your employees are self-isolating because they have COVID-19 or are a close contact of someone who is infected with COVID-19 and the employee cannot work from home, you may be entitled to the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

If your employee has been advised to self-isolate for at least four consecutive calendar days, you will be eligible for a one-week payment of Leave Support Scheme. If your employee needs to keep self-isolating for at least 11 calendar days or more, you can apply for a second week payment of the Leave Support Scheme. You can apply for third and subsequent Leave Support payments for every further seven days of self-isolation.

The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is paid at the rate of $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week or $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.

Applications can be made online using the following link: https://bit.ly/COVID-19LeaveSupport

If you are an employer or an employee seeking employment law advice, do not hesitate to get in touch with Horsley Christie Lawyers.

Matt Bouzaid LLB Bcom

SOLICITOR

horsleychristie.co.nz