COVID-19: Preparing your business for Alert Level 3

Nick Stanley
by, Nick Stanley

The NZ government has announced what life and business activity will look like under COVID-19 Alert Level 3.

New Zealand will move to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm on Monday, 27 April and remain there for two weeks (the government will make another decision about the alert level on 11 May). Until 27 April, the country remains at Alert Level 4.

Our team will keep reviewing the situation and we’ll update this post as new information comes to hand. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions as we get them.

This information is correct as at 4pm, 21 April 2020.

Businesses re-opening

Under Alert Level 3, more businesses will be able to open, so long as they comply with strict health & safety and social distancing requirements:

  • Workers must work from home wherever possible.
  • Workplaces must operate safely, keeping 1 metre between workers, recording who is working together, limiting interaction between groups of workers, disinfecting surfaces, and maintaining high hygiene standards.
  • Retail and hospitality businesses can only open for delivery and contactless, pre-ordered pick-up, but customers cannot enter stores, i.e. no face-to-face contact.
  • Supermarkets, dairies, and petrol stations can continue to allow customers into stores, with the same measures and restrictions as Alert Level 4
  • Businesses cannot offer services that involve face-to-face contact or sustained close contact, e.g. gyms, hairdressing, massage, house cleaning, or door-to-door salespeople.
  • Other in-home services, e.g. tradespeople for repairs or installations, can operate if it is safe and a 2-metre separation is kept from those in the house.
  • Most workers will not require PPE at work. Good hygiene measures like hand washing with soap and water, physical distancing, sneeze and cough etiquette, and wiping down surfaces is the best defence against COVID-19. Get more details at the Ministry of Health website.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has published guidance for businesses about workplace activities at different alert levels.

Businesses are allowed to access premises this week to get ready for Alert Level 3, e.g. employers re-entering premises to receive stock or for cleaning, maintenance, or other preparations, but you must stick to physical distancing and your bubbles.

WorkSafe has published information to help businesses start getting ready for a safe return to work along with guidance and templates for creating a COVID-19 safety plan

MBIE has said it will set up a self-accreditation regime for businesses and will provide assistance to put together worksite plans.

So far, we’ve seen no detail of how this will function, but the government will be providing more detailed guidance for different business sectors over the coming days. We will make further recommendations when we understand the requirements.

Find out more about Alert Level 3 at COVID-19.govt.nz

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Other things to think about

No doubt this will have been a tough and uncertain time for you and your employees. You will all be keen to get back to work and more regular patterns.

There will still be significant restrictions around the way you operate under Alert Level 3 (the basic principle is restricting contact with others) and the business landscape is likely to be very different and difficult for some time to come.

Ensuring people’s safety will continue to be at the forefront of everything, so it would be an opportune time to fully review and update your company’s health & safety policy and all your procedures - not just those that relate to COVID-19.

Many people will continue working from home and it’ll be important to maintain frequent contact to make sure these team members have everything they need to stay engaged with the business and can contribute to its goals.

It’s probably also a good time to gauge the morale of your employees and think about ways to give people a boost.

You’ve probably been doing a lot of thinking about business continuity. The government has indicated they want to move towards lower alert levels with more freedom of trade and movement, but this will depend on how the virus behaves.

We will be at Alert Level 3 for two weeks at least, so you might need to be innovative in thinking about how your business operates.

Hopefully, you still have a few weeks of the wage subsidy and/or essential workers leave support as a buffer for you and your team members. You may also need to explore other assistance or cost-saving options to get through this tough period. If you need any assistance, please contact the MyHR team.

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