Auckland COVID-19 lockdown: Unions urge employers to play their part after latest outbreak

Employees urged to work together to stop COVID-19

Auckland COVID-19 lockdown: Unions urge employers to play their part after latest outbreak

New Zealand’s unions have urged employers to play their part in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 after the latest outbreak.

On Sunday the government reinstated stage-three restrictions in Auckland as part of a week-long lockdown after a fresh case was discovered in the community.

The lockdown announcement came exactly a year after NZ recorded its first case, and once again, many businesses are feeling the pain of having to shut up shop.

Kirk Hope, BusinessNZ chief executive, urged workplaces and employees to pull together and do the right thing.

“We have a COVID-19 strategy that is really quite simple - everyone must stay away from work and isolate if they’ve been a close contact. It’s essential everyone is willing and able to stick to this strategy,” he told HRD.

"Every business and every worker must do everything in their power to get ahead of the latest Covid outbreak. The consequences and costs of failure would be huge for all of us.”

The latest community case is said to have visited the home of an infected person during the 3-day lockdown in Auckland last month but failed to notify contact tracers. There are currently 14 cases linked to that cluster.

Read more: Emirates Group boasts ‘fully vaccinated’ frontline teams

It has sparked frustration among the Auckland community, with some calling for harsher punishment for those who break lockdown rules. The person had been infectious with the more contagious UK strain for a week when they returned a positive test result.

The case served as a reminder of how quickly COVID-19 can spread in the community and that it’s imperative for anyone with symptoms to stay at home.

Richard Wagstaff, President of the CTU, said workplaces are a “crucial element” in the country’s defence against COVID-19.

“We need to work together so that isolation is not only the right thing to do, but also the easy thing to do,” he said.

“Workplaces must communicate this message so that everyone knows what’s expected of them. There should be no disadvantage or penalty of any kind for shielding others from COVID-19.”

Read more: COVID-19 no excuse to ignore work rights

There are currently a number of financial supports in place for employers and employees affected by the pandemic:

  • The Covid-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay their workers who cannot work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test result. There’s a one-off payment of $350 for each eligible worker.
  • The Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme is available for employers, including self-employed people, to help pay their employees who need to self-isolate and can't work from home. The scheme is paid as a lump sum and covers 2 weeks per eligible employee, up to $1176.60 for people who were working 20 hours or more per week.
  • The Resurgence Support Payment is a payment to help support viable and ongoing business or organisations due to a COVID-19 alert level increase to level 2 or higher
  • Information will be available on Monday about a Wage Subsidy for employers and self-employed people impacted by Covid-19. This scheme will be available across New Zealand.

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