COVID-19 lockdowns in 2021

Now that all of Aotearoa is in Alert Level 2 and Auckland remains at Alert Level 4, what does this mean for our sector?

 

Crossing regional boundaries

For travel within Alert Level 3 boundaries, travel is permitted within the same or an adjacent Alert Level 3 region only, in order to provide a business or service operating in compliance with the Alert Level 3 requirements. Travel to non-adjacent Alert Level 3 areas and overnight travel is only permitted for essential or exempt businesses or services.

Travel under Alert Level 3 should be minimised and consistent with the intent of the Health Order. If you're required to travel for work within Alert Level 3, be sure to carry evidence of your reason to leave home, such as a letter from your employer and/or client.

From 11.59pm, 16 September compliance checks for evidence of a COVID-19 test will be undertaken by policy at the Auckland region alert level boundary and permitted workers must provide photo ID, evidence of permitted travel, and proof of test or proof of testing exemption. 

Vaccinations

By law, employers cannot require staff to get vaccinated with the exception of workers at an MIQ facility.

Simpson Grierson has published an article answering some common questions from businesses, such as what to do when employees refuse to get vaccinated, and how to find out the extent to which your workforce is vaccinated.

The government has released guidance on vaccinations for public sector agencies which include key steps for employers that are also relevant to our sector, including:

  • Have a vaccination plan
  • Educate staff to ensure they have quality and up to date information about vaccines and the vaccination programme
  • Set an expectation that all staff should be vaccinated and communicate that, as well as role model it – consider introducing a requirement for at-risk workforces for new employees to be vaccinated into employment agreements, and ask staff to agree to provide their employer with information on whether they have been vaccinated
  • Ensure staff know where to go, employees should be paid for the time required for working through the vaccination process, set timeframes in the roll-out plan

The Business Leaders' Health & Safety Forum have produced guidelines on drafting a vaccination policy.  

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and CHASNZ also held a webinar on vaccinations on construction sites

Find out how to book your vaccination

Juggling privacy and contact tracing

It’s now mandatory to keep safe and secure records of everyone working at or visiting your premises. How do you protect people’s privacy when setting up a record keeping system of visitors to your business? The Privacy Commissioner has issued some helpful guidance. Read more on privacy

Construction Sector Accord health and safety protocols and guidance 

Building, construction and maintenance may be able to operate during Alert Level 4 restrictions if they meet the government criteria of Alert Level 4 businesses and services. Find out more about what work is deemed an Alert Level 4 business and service in the building, construction and maintenance sector.  

Work is allowed to secure sites that pose immediate health and safety hazards, so long as your workers adhere strictly to health and safety protocols and the work is solely to ensure the site is safe and secure.

CHASNZ has updated its protocols for working under COVID-19 Alert Level 4. Read the protocols

Guidance from the Construction Sector Accord includes contractual guidelines for procuring agencies, contract variation guidelines, the recommended approach to construction risk management, and rapid mobilisation guidance post-lockdown. The Accord advise that the health order instituted by the Government constitutes a change in law and therefore previous guidance issued by the Construction Sector Accord is still applicable. Some contracts may have clauses that set out provisions for dealing with costs associated with COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Auckland Council building and resource consents, regulatory engineering

Auckland Council has given updates to its relevant services and processes while in Level 4 lockdown. Find out more about working with Auckland Council in Alert Level 4

Waka Kotahi work plan 

Waka Kotahi has issued written confirmation to maintenance contractors regarding permitted activities and COVID risk management expectations. Read the plan

Remote working  

We have all been here before. Remote working isn’t new and with the influx of tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the country is now more prepared than ever to cope with this way of working.  

It’s important to check-in with your team regularly to make sure everyone is ok. Some team members may be feeling isolated, distracted - particularly with schools closed and other family members working at home and concerned about family and friends.  

Watch our webinar from 2020 with HR Assured on working from home 

Financial support  

The COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment helps businesses directly affected when there’s an increase to Alert Level 2 or higher for a week or more. The payment helps to cover wages and fixed costs. 

To be eligible, your business must have experienced at least a 30% drop in revenue or a 30% decline in capital-raising ability over a 7-day period, due to an increase in Alert Levels. 

Find out more information about the COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment and how to apply 

Did you know as well as the wage subsidy, there is a range of financial support you might be eligible to apply for as a result of COVID-19 Alert Level 4?

These include:

  • Resurgence Support Payment
  • Short-Term Absence Payment
  • Leave Support Scheme

Find out more with business.govt.nz

Contracts and force majeure 

We've previously prepared guidance on the legal regime concerning contracts under Alert Level 4. 

Contractual relief may be available through a force majeure provision if present in a contract. If not present, there is the possibility of the general law principle of frustration applying in a particular case. However, it appears very unlikely that frustration will be generally available as a remedial route for consultants unless the current Lockdown is extended for a prolonged period causing substantial delays/obstruction to the performance of services. 

The recommended way forward for consultants, including those with contractual relief provisions, is to communicate proactively with clients and seek a mutually acceptable negotiated solution via a contract variation. If that can’t be achieved directly, consultants are recommended to seek legal advice on their contractual position. 

Read the full advisory 

Events and training 

Due to COVID-19, we decided to postpone our conference Future-Fit Aotearoa and ACE Awards to Wednesday 2 – Friday 4 February 2022, with the ACE Awards on the evening of Thursday 3 February. Our priority is to keep everyone safe. Moving the conference and awards to February will hopefully ensure we’re well outside of any lockdowns and enable us to deliver the best experience possible for everyone. If you haven't already, register for Future-Fit Aotearoa and the ACE Awards

All other upcoming ACE New Zealand events are online. See our events and training

A reminder  

During the lockdowns in 2020, we spoke to many members and outside professionals around managing a remote team, what physical distancing means and how you can care for staff. Read more:  

COVID basics  

We have all been here before. Remember to stay at home under Alert Level 4. The only reason you can leave home is to shop for groceries, access necessary healthcare, get a COVID-19 test, exercise or go to work if you are working in an Alert Level 4 service.  

Brush up on the government’s COVID Alert Level 4 details  

Ngā mihi, kia kaha, stay safe.