Moving into level 2 – what you need to know

From 11.59pm on Wednesday 13 May, New Zealand moves into Level 2. Here’s some key points:

  • At Alert Level 2, all businesses (except bars) can open their premises to the public provided specific requirements are satisfied.
  • Bars are able to reopen on Thursday 21 May.​
  • MBIE is currently developing sector specific guidance outlining the applicable public health requirements for each industry.
  • Hospitality businesses can only open their premises to customers if they can meet the three S's - seated, separated and service.
  • While all businesses can operate if they can do so safely, alternative ways of working are still encouraged where possible. This may mean having some employees continuing to work from home.
  • Employers should have a plan about how they will operate safely at Alert Level 2 and this should be documented and discussed with employees before they return to the workplace. You’ll find a template here and more information here.
  • Where employers wish to make changes to employees' hours of work, remuneration or duties as a result of reduced demand, these changes should be agreed with employees.​​​
  • There must be a robust contact tracing system in place, which records every person who enters the premises.
  • Physical distancing of one metre is maintained between groups of customers.
  • Your business must be able to meet applicable public health requirements, including hygiene measures, physical distancing, hand washing, and regular cleaning.
  • Businesses that involve close personal contact, such as hairdressers and beauticians, can re-open with a robust contact tracing system in place, maintaining good hygiene practices, and limiting contact to the extent possible. 
  • Necessary public health requirements at Alert Level 3 continue to apply during Alert Level 2. These include:
    • Regular disinfecting of surfaces – particularly 'high-contact' surfaces such as Eftpos terminals and door handles
    • Encouraging good hand hygiene by allowing frequent hand washing and sanitising
    • Not having sick people in the workplace
    • Meeting physical distancing requirements.

Issues for employers and employees under Level 2

The impact of Alert Level 2 will depend on the nature of your business and the way that your employees can conduct their work.

Businesses are encouraged to use alternative ways of working if possible. The government’s guidance states that businesses that don't normally have customers on their premises could continue to have staff working from home.

You will need to determine whether a return to the workplace can be safely effected for all or just some of your workforce. It is possible that a phased approach may be necessary, or some other alternative plan whereby only some of the workforce is allowed back onto the premises at any one time to maintain physical distancing and make contact tracing easier.

You need to communicate clearly with your employees about the approach that you intend to take at Alert Level 2, and to provide reassurance to your employees that, if they are to return to the workplace, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure safety. 

This includes having a plan around common areas such as lifts and stairwells that can be accessed by people who are not part of the workplace. The plan should also provide information about how a contact register will be maintained and this should be communicated to employees before they return to the workplace. 

You may need to consult with others that operate in the same building or workplace area, to ensure that there are no 'gaps' in the plan and that a co-ordinated approach is being taken in relation to common areas.

WorkSafe recommends that all employers document their Alert Level 2 approach so that this can be shared with others including customers and clients. A template is provided on the WorkSafe website, but it is important to consider the particular circumstances that apply for each business and to address these in the plan. 

Employees also have obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and take reasonable care that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Employees should be reminded that they should not come to work if they are sick and this requirement should be strictly enforced.

Moore Markhams teams will be returning to their offices under Level 2. You can contact us there.

Our thanks to Belly Gully for guidance on the employment matters in this article.