[EMPLOYMENTNZ] EMPLOYMENT DURING AND AFTER DISASTERS
During and after a disaster or emergency, employers and employees need to consider issues such as health and safety, emotional wellbeing and payment options.
Pay and leave if an employee is not working after a natural disaster or emergency
There are different reasons why an employee doesn’t work in this situation. These can include:
- An employer may be unable to provide work for employees who are willing and able to carry out their agreed hours of work.
- An employer may be unable to provide a suitable and safe workplace for employees who are willing and able to carry out their agreed hours of work.
- Employees can’t access the workplace because of restrictions not directly related to their own workplace and out of their employer’s control (eg road closures, safety issues relating to adjoining buildings, evacuation due to flooding or tsunami risk).
- An employee (or their dependant) is sick or injured and unable to work.
- An employee has to care for a dependant because usual care is unavailable.
- An employee is willing and able to work but their usual mode of transport is unavailable.
Employers and employees can’t assume that time away from work in these circumstances would be either paid or unpaid without looking at the employment agreement, workplace policies and the specific circumstances. The employer and employee should look at their employment agreement to see if this type of situation is covered. If it’s not in the agreement, then it is up to both parties to talk about it in good faith and agree what the time away from work will be classed as.
If the employee’s partner or dependent family member isn’t injured or sick but he or she requires care, eg because their child’s school is closed, the employee can’t take sick leave. In some cases, employees may be able to continue to work while caring for their family, if the employer and employee agree to this arrangement. If it’s not appropriate or possible for staff to continue working, employees and employers will need to agree on what basis the employee is off work.
Options for leave and payment
- Annual holidays
- Anticipated annual holidays or additional annual holidays
- Using an entitled alternative holiday
- Special leave, either as provided for in employment agreements or workplace policies or by agreement between the employer and employee
- Leave without pay
- Employees can take sick leave if their partner or dependents are injured or sick and they have sick leave available or the employer agrees to extra sick leave
- Other paid or unpaid leave either as provided for in employment agreements or workplace policies or by agreement between the employer and employee
- Advance on wages
Whichever option the employer and employee agree on may depend upon the circumstances, including the nature and extent of the disaster and how long it lasts for. Once all leave entitlements under the Holidays Act 2003 and any negotiated additional leave or any anticipated leave entitlements run out, employees and their employers will need to consider further options in good faith (and consider the impact these options will have on business recovery later).
There are special rules for shift workers relating to the cancellation or early ending of a shift.