In Auckland, we’re excited to be moving to Alert Level 3, if only so we can take a break from cooking every single meal! 

For many businesses, the change is a very welcome relief from being unable to trade at all in Level 4. Level 3 offers more businesses the opportunity to carry out work and start bringing in some revenue. However, we need to remember that restrictions are still very much in place, and are likely to be enforced (whether that be by government agencies or the ever-present threat of social media judgement).

We set out below a few things to think about in Level 3.

Who can go to work?

The general rule is that if you can work from home, you should continue to do so. If you cannot work from home, and your employer can open, you may go to work. There are several restrictions on this however – see below.

Which businesses can open?

If the business involves close physical contact (like barbers, beauticians, or driving instructors) it cannot open. Similarly, businesses that involve gatherings of large numbers of people like gyms, entertainment facilities like movie theatres, arcades, and nightclubs, cannot open.

Otherwise, businesses can open, if they can do so safely, and subject to the restrictions below.

What are the restrictions on doing business in Alert Level 3?

In a nutshell, they are:

  • The business must be contactless – for ordering, delivery, pick up, and payment.
  • You can only have customers on the premises if you fall into a limited list of retail stores and services (the businesses that were able to open in Level 4, plus a few additional stores, including butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers, and hardware stores for trade customers only).
  • Employees must be 1 metre apart.
  • If you are allowed to have customers on site, or for contactless pickup, they must be 2 metres apart.
  • Hygiene measures must be in place – cleaning shared surfaces, and disinfecting hands.
  • QR codes must be displayed and there must be an alternative contact tracing system for those who don’t have a smartphone.

What about masks?

Employees must wear a face covering if they are public-facing, including for retail staff, delivery staff, drivers of taxis, Ubers, buses etc, or if they are at someone’s home (for example as a tradesperson). Customers must also wear masks on public transport, in taxis or ride shares, and inside a retail business or other service (such as a bank or vet clinic).

Face coverings are generally recommended in indoor areas wherever ventilation is poor or it is difficult to keep a physical distance from others.

Can construction work resume?

Yes, building and construction work can resume, so long as you can operate safely, meeting the requirements above. Remember that if the type of work you do means that it is not possible to meet the restrictions above (including the physical distancing requirements) then you cannot work.

For building and construction work, as well as businesses operating manufacturing plant, or managing distribution, it will be particularly important to ensure that ‘normal’ health and safety processes and procedures can be maintained. Safe Operating Procedures must still be followed, and you must continue to identify and manage all risks in your business. Covid-19 is only one such risk – and while it is important to manage it and comply with the restrictions, you can’t take your eye off all of the other hazards and risks.

You should think carefully about whether the measures used to eliminate or minimise one hazard, create another. For example, by keeping one metre apart, are you reducing employees’ ability to lift a heavy load safely? Remember that if the Alert Level 3 restrictions mean that you cannot operate safely, you cannot operate.

Similarly, as businesses adapt to new ways of working to meet the Alert Level 3 restrictions, you may need to update or review the assessment and control of risks. Involve your workers, and make sure that risks are eliminated if possible, or minimised. If you need help with your health and safety obligations, contact our specialist Health and Safety team.

What if revenue is still reduced?

When any part of Aotearoa New Zealand is at Alert Level 3 or higher, the Wage Subsidy is available – a further two week payment became available on 17 September, and it is likely that a further payment will follow that. There is also a second Resurgence Support Payment available to eligible businesses. More information is available here.

What other things should I be thinking about when my business resumes work?

Make sure that employees know they are not to come to work sick. There is financial support available if employees need to self-isolate while awaiting a negative test. You can find more information about Leave Support Scheme in our article here.

Consider the requirements of the Privacy Act when figuring out a manual contact tracing system. When you are collecting personal information, you need to make sure it is kept securely and not disclosed to others.

Remember that employment agreements can only be changed by mutual agreement. This applies to hours of work, pay, and duties. Check whether any arrangements that you agreed to in Alert Level 4 need to be amended for Level 3.

Consider supporting your employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – whether that be arranging company transport to a vaccination centre, giving employees paid time off work to get their vaccination, or supporting them to access information to make their decision. Vaccination can be a bit of a hot-button topic, so please get legal advice if you are thinking about implementing any sort of ‘no jab no job’ policy.