COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Advice for members about the COVID-19 outbreak.

New Zealand is now at Alert Level 2 on the COVID-19 alert system. Unlike at Alert Levels 3 and 4, you have more freedom of movement at Level 2 - but it’s up to each one of us to keep the rest of New Zealand safe!

These are the most important things that you can remember and do:

  • COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe.
  • Keep your distance from other people in public.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
  • If you have symptoms of cold or flu call your doctor or Healthline and get advice about being tested.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, regularly disinfect surfaces.
  • If you have been told to self-isolate you must do so immediately.
  • Keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen.

Information about the pandemic is being updated regularly and we will do our best to give you the most current advice on this page.

What are we doing?

PSA staff are working remotely and we have expanded the capacity of our Organising Centre so we can continue to take your calls and respond quickly to your queries.

Our organisers have been working with employers on their pandemic planning, particularly those agencies on the frontline of dealing with the risk of infection. We are continuing to work through issues with government agencies and employers that relate to your safety and your rights, including around redeployment.

If you are experiencing difficulty getting your employer to pay for time you have had to be away from work you can call us on 0508 367 772.

See the table below for all full-membership newsletters.  

Date Sent Subject Line
 24 April  Keep your distance, but stick together. Let's stay safe in Level 3
 27 March  Information on Essential Services
 25 March  Member update from your national secretaries
 02 March  Coronavirus - Information for Members

The pandemic is a health and safety issue for many workers. The PSA is communicating with your employers regularly to ensure there are workplace safety controls in place. You are also encouraged to do this through your delegates, Health and Safety reps, and management using mechanisms established in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Prevention is of course preferable, so follow Ministry of Health guidance for infection control and social isolation, as well as systematic cleaning of surfaces.

If you are concerned your employer is not following appropriate health and safety measures on workplace prevention, travel, social distancing or isolation, contact your site delegates, health and safety reps or your employer. If you require urgent support contact the PSA on 0508 367 772 or enquiries@psa.org.nz

PSA members work for a wide range of organisations around the country.  You will find more specific information on your sector at the following pages.  We will update these pages as things evolve.

COVID-19 by Sector

As we have returned to Alert Level 2, some of you will be returning to work. 

Many of you may still have the option to work from home. In order to make sure you stay safe and healthy at home, we have prepared a few suggestions. 

You can download these suggestions in PDF format here, or click here to download our Top Ten Tips for Working From Home infographic.

1. Stay safe

Make sure you have access to safe working conditions. If you’re working on a computer think about your desk set up and posture. Try and set up somewhere quiet with plenty of natural light and good ventilation.

2. Stay healthy

To maintain your physical health, ensure you get regular short intervals of fresh air, moving and stretching yourself. Just step outside or go for a brief and brisk walk around the block if you are able. Temperatures outside are dropping so make sure you have appropriate heating where necessary. It is important for your physical and mental health to eat healthily and to get enough sleep.  

Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Focusing on the things you can control can help to improve how you feel. A good place to start is the five ways to wellbeing. Answers to frequently asked questions about looking after mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 by the Mental Health Foundation are available here. Further reading including resilience strategies, how to talk to children about the virus, podcasts and more are available here. The Ministry of Health has also compiled information to ensure your and your children’s mental wellbeing.

Under lockdown, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or upset, among a wide range of other emotional reactions. Some practical things you can do include to use a journal to write down how you feel, talk to others or do something creative. Also avoid excessive consumption of media coverage.

3. Have the right equipment

You will also need to have access to all the relevant equipment (such as an office chair and monitors) and IT software you would normally use in your day-to-day working life. If you need access to a programme you don’t have available at home, then talk to your manager. Your employer should pay for wi-fi needed for work if the person doesn’t have internet access at home.

4. Know what is expected

If you’re working remotely it is important to be clear about what work you are expected to carry out, especially if this differs from your usual tasks and duties. Talk to your manager and possibly write down what you are working on and what you will be able to deliver over a certain period of time. Getting agreement will provide you, your manger and your team with certainty.

5. Keep in touch

Stay in touch with your manager and your team. There are lots of different ways you can do this. You may want to think about setting up regular video calls with colleagues. You can also use email, phone and chat groups like. You should also stay in touch with your union delegates or organisers for any help or developments about what is happening.

Keeping in touch is important to ensure you, your colleagues and your manager are informed about each other’s work. It is also important to avoid loneliness and other negative mental health effects of being socially isolated. 

6. Maintaining work routines

It can be hard to stick to set hours when working from home due to a more flexible working regime. Domestic distractions, care responsibilities and blurred boundaries between work and time off can be difficult to navigate.

Ideally it is good to stick to your set hours and follow your usual work patterns while working from home as the boundaries between work and time off can become blurred.

However we understand this will be extremely difficult for many parents and caregivers who also have family responsibilities. Communicate with your manager and team members about your situation so you can come to an understanding about work expectations.

Follow your usual working patterns and stick to a routine where possible. Some might find it useful to keep a diary or use an online hours calculator to ensure good discipline around working hours. It is a good idea to proactively communicate your working hours to others in your team. 

7. Do not work when you are sick

Whether you have got coronavirus symptoms or another illness, if you’re too ill to work, you’re too ill to work. It doesn’t matter if you’re based in the office or at home – sick leave policies still apply. It helps to keep your calendar updated with any leave you might be taking (sick leave, domestic leave, annual leave etc.). It keeps your team aware of your situation.

8. What to do when you encounter challenges

Challenges when working from home can take different forms. It might be challenging to physically finding a quiet space where you can concentrate, separating care and work responsibilities, dealing with (pre-existing) anxiety or depression or domestic violence. To prevent, mitigate and eliminate challenges it is even more important that we are kind and generous towards each other. Look after your neighbours and check on people at risk regularly.

Those who are at risk or experiencing mental health and violence issues must not hesitate to seek professional help immediately.

Schools and childcare centers are now closed adds additional pressures on many families and parents’ care responsibilities. Information on how parents can maintain resilient and how to communicate with their children is available here.

Specific resources on COVID 19 and family violence can be accessed here. The Family Violence Information Line (0800 456 450) provides self-help information and connects people to services where appropriate. It is available seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm, with an after-hours message redirecting callers in the case of an emergency.

In case you need support with your mental health the following helplines are available

  • 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor. 
  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or free text 4357 (HELP)
  • Youthline – 0800 376 633 or free text 234
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666

9. Stay in touch with your union

We will be providing regular updates via our website and social media channels. Also stay in touch with your delegate or organiser. We are here to help and to share information. We can and must be union – especially under lockdown.

If you haven't already, we recommend checking that your details are correct on MyPSA.

 

You can also checkout Prospect UK's short video for advice:

Top 10 tips for working from home during coronavirus from Prospect Union on Vimeo.

As part of its response to COVID 19 the Government has identified a number of essential services required to keep the country operating while we are operating under Alert Level 4. 

What are the essential businesses?

Many of our members work in these essential services, including but not limited to: Border staff, DHBs, primary industries, some local government services, courts and corrections, ACC, social services, emergency services, and more.  

For a complete list of essential businesses, please go to the Covid-19 Essential Services page here: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/essential-businesses/#what-are-essential-businesses

For a detailed list of essential social services please go to the MSD website: http://msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/newsroom/2020/covid-19/list-of-essential-services-covid-19.html

Essential services in the health and disability system

Essential services at Alert Level 4 in the health and disability system are those that meet one or more of the following six criteria: 

  • A health and disability service that provides direct support that maintains a person’s basic necessities of life.
  • A health and disability service that responds to emergency and acute care needs (including emergency dentists, physiotherapy, radiography)
  • Community, Disability Support Services (DSS), Aged care services including Home and Community Support Services (HCSS) and Mental Health and Addiction Services that supports high risk and vulnerable client groups.
  • Emergency and crisis support for people who feel unwell or are unsafe (eg, Funded helplines, refuges and family violence services, sexual violence crisis services).
  • Services are prioritised to those people most at risk of harm if those services were not provided. Each provider delivering these services must immediately identify those people most at risk.
  • Key supply chains including manufacturers, suppliers and repairers that support the health system.

Why have they been chosen?

Essential businesses, and those that support them, are required to continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand during Alert Level 4.

This means food, medicine, healthcare, some social services, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support will continue to be available.

What is considered an essential service may change over the duration of the pandemic. Some activities that are not essential now may become essential if New Zealand remains at alert level 4 for a sustained period.

What this means in terms of obligations to workers who work for them:

Essential services will remain open and continue to operate and their employees may be required to continue to come to work.

When requiring employees to come to work, employers should take into account an employee’s personal circumstances.  For example, if they have health issues, dependent children to look after,  are over 70 or have a compromised immune system.

The essential service should operate in a way that keeps employees safe and minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  This includes:

  • working from home as far as possible
  • minimising, or eliminating if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers;
  • ensuring appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place;
  • restricting activity to only what is essential during the Alert Level 4 period;
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction between staff, eg through physical distancing, split shifts, staggered meal breaks and flexible working arrangements
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction with and between customers, eg through online or phone orders, contactless delivery or managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside), and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises
  • hygiene basics of hand washing and sanitisers
  • frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and eftpos terminals, and other high-touch surfaces (cleaning advice is available on the Ministry of Health website)
  • protective equipment for staff as appropriate.

If an essential service is  unsure if it can operate in a manner that minimises the risk of transmission of COVID-19, it should close while it puts in place appropriate measures.

Redeployment

Workers may be offered redeployment to critical services where there is a particular need during the pandemic crisis.  Any redeployment should be consistent with existing skillset.

We expect the PSA to be advised of any plans for redeployment and is there to assist its members with any issues or concerns that may arise.

In considering any offer of redeployment we expect your personal circumstances are taken into account (e.g. any underlying health issues, elderly people at home). 

When redeployed your existing terms and conditions will apply.

Your usual employer and the new employer will agree appropriate health and safety arrangement.

What the PSA is doing, particularly in agencies where not everyone is engaged in essential work

We have concerns about the practices of some agencies providing essential services. For example, we are aware that some staff have been directed or deployed before the employer has engaged with the union and put appropriate safety protocols in place. We are continuing to emphasise that complete, robust safety plans must be in place before staff are brought in.

While an agency may be providing essential services, not all the work carried out within the agency may be considered essential at this time. Some organisations are not consistently critically assessing what specific parts within the operation are essential in this Level 4 Lockdown, to what degree, and why, and then operating a highly protected skeleton staff to do that work. 

We are engaging with these employers to ensure that staff who are not necessarily involved in the delivery of essential services are not required to be at work.

For more information

For more information go to: www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-essential-services-health-and-disability-system 

 

The following information was passed on by the NZCTU

Here are the links we have been sent from MSD about benefits, types of benefits , information and entitlement and applications.  This information may change so it will be important so you may wish to check this link regularly to ensure that you have the most recent information. Please note that the section on Redundancy Support is to come as it is under review.  

The primary focus with the MSD’s Covid-19 support is to ensure that employers and employees have access to information and support to help them keep employees/stay in employment.

https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/covid-19-support.html#null

Here is a link to the information about changes to the way MSD are providing services.

https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/emergencies/2020/coronavirus.html

Below are the links to information for people in a range of different circumstances.

Not working

Urgent or unexpected costs

Housing

Employers

  • Redundancy support -  Information to come – currently under discussion and review.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 you are entitled to refuse to work because it is unsafe.

At Alert Level 4 (from 11:59pm, 25 March 2020) an essential service can be required to work so long as it is safe to do so.

If your work is not an essential service, you will not be allowed to do any face to face work.

There is a “COVID-19 Leave Payment” available to your employer from the government. We are advising all employers to pay workers while they wait for their application to be processes.  It is the law that when your employer gets this payment, they must pass it on in full to you.

The COVID-19 Leave Payment covers full-time, part-time and casual employees and contracted workers who are legally working in New Zealand.

The COVID-19 leave payment will be paid at the rate of:

  • $585.80 to a person working 20 hours or more per week
  • $350 to a person working less than 20 hours per week.

There is up-to-date information about this payment here: https://workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/covid-19-support.html

Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Recently, an outbreak of a new coronavirus disease now called COVID-19 (sometimes called novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) was identified.

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand is now growing but the restrictions introduced under Level 4 are expected to bring about a reduction in new cases over time. We are monitoring the situation closely.

Symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza. Having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19.

COVID-19 presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases are mild. Generally, coronaviruses can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

How it spreads

Like the flu, COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The scientific evidence confirms that coronavirus is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may generate droplets containing the virus. These droplets are too large to stay in the air for long, so they quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.

Droplet-spread diseases can be spread coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, and contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

It is really important to practice good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands and practice good cough etiquette.

Protecting yourself and others

The following general precautions for cold and flu should be taken:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water. Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, rather than your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Face masks for the general public are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments.

The focus of some people’s work has or may need to shift to work connected to the pandemic. We will need to manage our union work through this period. Where collective agreements are due for renegotiation or we have planned joint work with employers on key matters, we will develop plans for how to continue this, given the situation.

We are exploring technology options to help with continuing necessary union meetings and delegate work. 

Do Not Travel Overseas At This Time

We now advise that all New Zealanders do not travel overseas at this time due to the outbreak of COVID-19, associated health risks and travel restrictions.

Travelers recently returned from other countries

Most foreign travellers can no longer enter New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) can still come to New Zealand. Immediate family members cannot travel by themselves. They must travel with the New Zealand citizen or resident family member on the same flight to New Zealand. Australian citizens and permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand can still come to New Zealand.

Returning residents and citizens must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival in New Zealand and register with Healthline (0800 358 5453).

For more information on self-isolation see the Ministry of Health website. For further information regarding the border changes, please read the information on the Immigration New Zealand website or contact Immigration New Zealand on +64 9 952 1679 (outside New Zealand) 0508 225 288 (within New Zealand).

For New Zealanders currently overseas

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade urge all New Zealanders living in, visiting or travelling overseas to register on SafeTravel. Registering means you will receive updated information and advice as soon as it comes to hand.

The focus of some people’s work has or may need to shift to work connected to the pandemic. We will need to manage our union work through this period. Where collective agreements are due for renegotiation or we have planned joint work with employers on key matters such as equal pay, we will develop plans for how to continue this, given the situation.

 

There have been some reports of an increase in discrimination linked to COVID-19, particularly against people of Chinese heritage.

Employers should not tolerate racism in any form, and we encourage members to report any incident and contact your PSA representative for support.

The employer’s responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act continue to apply. The employer should have protocols, including providing you with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and gloves if appropriate (where you cannot keep a distance of a metre or more from another person).

If you are not aware of what the employer’s protocols are contact your employer to discuss.  You should also check out the Ministry of Health website at https://www.health.govt.nz/ where you will find specific advice about face mask and hygiene advice.