Given that Covid-19 has been brought front-and-centre back into our lives and our businesses this week, I thought it might be a good idea to have a chat about the latest business subsidy available to clinics – and thus their teams – this week, what to do if one of your team members tests positive – the subsidy available to you, and then what you need to do if you or someone in your clinic needs to cross different alert level borders.

The government has recently made changes the suite of financial support available on account of the pandemic’s impact on Godzone’s businesses.

In today’s episode we’re going to cover:

  • The Covid 19 Short-Term Absence Payment subsidy – this affects employees and self-employed contractors
  • The Covid-19 Leave Support Subsidy, and
  • How to get the paperwork so that you or your team can cross borders

This episode is helpful for employees, self-employed locum contractors, HR & Practice Managers and clinic owners.

On the financial side of things, this episode is especially helpful if you’re wondering how you’re going to afford to cover an employee’s wage if they’re awaiting Covid-19 test results and are at home isolating, or if you’re the employee worrying about whether you can financially afford to be at home awaiting test results.

And if you’re part of a clinic – or you’re a locum – who needs to travel across Covid-19 imposed alert level borders to work, then this is also for you.

Covid-19 Short-Term Absence Payment

The Covid-19 Short Term Absence Payment is available for veterinary clinics, including self-employed locum contractors, to help pay workers who cannot work from home while they wait for a COVID-19 test result.

Obviously – professional clinical staff like veterinarians, veterinary nurses and veterinary technicians cannot work from home so this information applies to you!

The Short-Term Absence Payment is available from last Monday – as at recording this episode – Monday 9th February 2021. It’s to help businesses keep paying eligible workers who:

  • cannot work from home, and
  • who need to miss work to stay home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result (in line with public health guidance).

It’s a one-off payment of $350 for each eligible worker. You can only apply for it once, for each eligible worker, in any 30-day period (unless a health official or doctor tells the worker to get another test).

And as I mentioned just now, it’s also available to self-employed contractors. 

Self employed contractors – presumably locums but not necessarily – this could also apply to contractors who’re self employed on a fixed term role within a clinic – would need to apply for this payment themselves. 

Whereas, for employees, the clinic would apply direct in its own right, on the worker’s behalf.

As we keep getting drummed into us, anyone who’s unwell should call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or talk to their doctor or health provider.

Clinics should encourage everyone on their team to do this if they’re unwell. 

Who can get the COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment?

Obviously, as this is a government subsidy, there’s certain criteria that businesses and self-employed people and their workers need to meet to apply for the COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment.

Businesses can apply for the payment if they’ve been advised that their worker, or a self-employed person, is:

  • staying home while waiting for a COVID-19 test result, in accordance with public health guidance, or are
  • the parent or caregiver of a dependant who is staying home while waiting for their COVID-19 test results, in accordance with public health guidance, and the dependant needs support to do so safely, or are
  • a household member or secondary contact (as described in public health guidance) of someone who is a close contact of a person with COVID-19, and the worker has been advised to stay at home while waiting for the close contact’s test results.

People who are identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 will be told to self-isolate for a period and get tested for COVID-19.  Provided they meet the qualifications, businesses with workers in this situation may be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

The criteria for this payment all centres around the individual workers involved.   It’s the worker who must be eligible.

Your worker must be waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test and be staying home while waiting for these results (in accordance with public health guidance). They also must be unable to work from home.

As I just said, the person who has taken the COVID-19 test can be:

  • your worker
  • someone who is a dependant of your worker (eg. children or a family member with a disability)
  • someone who’s a household contact or secondary contact (as described in public health guidance) of a person who has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case.

The test must have been taken on or after Monday 9 February 2021.

You’ve got 8 weeks after the test to apply for this payment.  At this point in time, it looks like this payment will continue for as long as it’s needed.  Unlike other subsidies that have had an end date applied to them.

If your worker has a positive COVID-19 test, you can apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme to help pay their wages.   We’ll look at the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme later on in this episode.

Who’s not eligible for the Covid-19 Short Term Absence Payment?

Out of all the non-eligible criteria, only the first one affects veterinary clinics – the others don’t apply. 

The Short-Term Absence Payment cannot be paid for workers who:

  • do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and involved in routine testing in their workplace, surveillance testing, or has not been notified through contact tracing to stay home in accordance with public health guidance; or
  • are returning international air crew – obviously not applicable here
  • are currently overseas – again – obviously not applicable
  • are staying in managed isolation facilities – this could be applicable to a veterinary worker
  • are an employee of a State Sector organisation or Stated Owned Enterprise (unless that organisation has been granted an exception by the Minister of Finance in relation to a COVID-19 Wage Subsidy or the Leave Support Scheme) – again – obviously not applicable

Your business must be eligible

I said earlier that this payment centres around your workers.  However, businesses can’t double-dip.  Your business must not be getting any of the following payments at the same time for the same worker to cover any situation that is also covered by Short-Term Absence Payment:

  • any other COVID-19 Wage Subsidy, or
  • Leave Support Scheme payments.

The majority of New Zealand employers and self-employed people are eligible to apply. This includes:

  • registered charities
  • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
  • the self-employed and sole traders
  • contractors
  • incorporated societies
  • post-settlement governance entities
  • local government organisations
  • kindergartens and Early Childhood Centres.

Your business must be in New Zealand

Your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand.

This means your business must be:

  • registered with the New Zealand Companies Office
  • physically located in New Zealand, and
  • your workers legally work in New Zealand.

Veterinary professionals who are self-employed

Obviously, a self-employed person won’t be required to be registered with the New Zealand Companies Office, but they must have:

  • a personal IRD number for paying income tax and GST
  • government licences and permits for their business needs, and
  • qualifications or registrations for their trade or profession.

Self-employed people must still meet the requirements to be physically located and legally working in New Zealand.

“Legally working in New Zealand” means a person is both working in New Zealand and is legally entitled to work in New Zealand.

A person is legally entitled to work in New Zealand if they:

  • are a New Zealand or Australian citizen (including a person born in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau), or
  • have a New Zealand residence class visa (eg, permanent residence visa or returning resident visa), or
  • have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand (eg, work visa or student visa that allows them to work).

Last week I mentioned VisaView – which is an online portal where businesses can check a worker’s visa eligibility to work in NZ using their igovt login.

If you’re an employer, you must have had a conversation with your worker

You must:

  • check that the date of the COVID-19 test was within the last eight weeks (but no earlier than 9 February 2021),
  • you must discuss an application with your worker/s before making it
  • you must get their consent to the relevant points outlined in the declaration
  • you must acknowledge that they need to stay home in line with public health guidance, and
  • you must confirm they can’t work from home and therefore need to miss work to stay at home while waiting for the COVID-19 test results.

You should have a conversation about how best to support your worker at this time. For example, they may choose to use existing sick or annual leave and you could use the subsidy to support paying that.

By now you’re probably wondering how much and how long this will take to process

There’s a one-off amount of $350 for each eligible worker while they’re staying home waiting for test results. This is regardless of whether they’re working full or part-time.

You can only apply for it once, for each eligible worker, in any 30-day period (unless a health official or doctor tells the worker to get another test).

Payment timeframes

All payments and applications are done through WINZ, which is working to process and make payments as quickly as they can.

WINZ needs to check the information you’ve given them is the same as what’s held by Inland Revenue.  If it’s not, there could be a delay.

And don’t think about calling WINZ to see where your application is at – they won’t give you information about the status of your application over the phone. They do however, state they’ll be in touch as soon as they can.

If your application’s approved, WINZ will email you once the payment has been made.

The email will tell you which workers the payment is being made for.

Your bank will use a specific reference – MSD COVID19A.

If you haven’t received payment in your account, it may be because WINZ doesn’t have the right bank account number for you. If this is the case, the money will be returned to them and they’ll call you.

What if your application is declined? 

If your application’s declined, WINZ will email you to let you know.

There are four main reasons it could have been declined:

  • the application was completed by a worker (not the business) – remember it’s the business that has to apply.
  • you applied using the wrong application form
  • the details you gave WINZ don’t match those held by Inland Revenue (IR), or
  • you’re already getting the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme or Short-Term Absence Payment for the workers named in your application.

If you don’t agree with WINZs decision to decline your application, their email will tell you how you can get this reviewed.

What if your worker has a positive Covid-19 test result, then what?  That’s where the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is available to help pay their wages if that happens. 

The Covid-19 Short Term Absence Payment is relatively new and only kicked in on Monday 9th February.  As I’m recording this, that was last week.

Prior to this, the Leave Support Scheme covered people who were sick with COVID-19 ‘like’ symptoms who met the Ministry of Health’s ‘higher index of suspicion’ criteria, as well as health and disability support and aged-care workers who were self-isolating while waiting for a COVID-19 test result. 

Businesses with workers in these groups are now covered by the COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment.

Businesses may be able to get the Leave Support Scheme if they meet the other eligibility criteria.

The criteria is similar to the Short Term Absence Payment we’ve just looked at. 

Criteria that must be met applies to:

  • the employee
  • being an eligible employer
  • the business must be in NZ
  • the employee must be legally working in Godzone, and
  • the employer and employee must have ‘that’ conversation.

Looking at each one separately……

Your employee must meet health criteria

You must have employees (or be a self-employed person) who either:

  • are sick with COVID-19 and must self-isolate until a doctor tells them they can leave isolation
  • are identified as someone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and have been told to self-isolate for a period by a health official through the National Contact Tracing process
  • are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been told to self-isolate for a period by a doctor or health official through the National Contact Tracing process and the dependant needs support to do so safely
  • have been directed to self-isolate, or are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been directed to self-isolate, by a Medical Officer of Health in accordance with the Health Act 1956
  • are considered ‘higher risk’ if they contract COVID-19 and a doctor has told them to self-isolate while there’s active community transmission, or
  • have household members who are considered ‘higher risk’ if they contract COVID-19 and a doctor has told them to self-isolate, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable household members.

If you’ve just hired an employee who hasn’t started work yet, and they meet this criteria, you can apply for them provided you meet the other criteria as well.

The health criteria changed at 9am on 9 February 2021.

Depending on what date you applied before the 9th of February affects which criteria you need to meet.  I’ll put links to all the different dates on the show notes page of pawsclawswetnoses.fm.  

Alternatively, you can go direct to the work and income page which is:

https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/who-can-get-it.html

Who’s NOT covered by the Leave Support Scheme

The Leave Support Scheme cannot be paid for employees, or self-employed people, who:

  • are a household member or secondary contact (as described in public health guidelines) of a person who has been identified as a close contact of a person who has COVID-19
  • are casual contacts of someone who has COVID-19
  • are sick with COVID-19-like symptoms and are staying home while waiting for a test result but can return to work if the test result is negative (ie they have not been told to self-isolate by a doctor or health official through the National Contact Tracing process)
  • are currently overseas
  • have recently returned from international travel and must stay in managed isolation for a period
  • are returning international air crew
  • cannot work because they have care of dependants and they have been unable to access care for those dependants (unless the dependant must self-isolate and needs support to do so safely)
  • are unable to work as they have a reasonable belief that continued work during COVID-19 is harmful to their physical or mental health
  • are unable to work for any other reason, for example, bereavement
  • are already getting the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme or Short-Term Absence Payment for.

The Leave Support Scheme can’t be paid for these employees because their leave is either covered by other leave types (eg, sick or bereavement leave) or should be discussed as part of their general employment conditions.

When it comes to employer eligibility, the majority of New Zealand employers and self-employed people are eligible to apply. This includes:

  • registered charities
  • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
  • the self-employed and sole traders
  • contractors
  • incorporated societies
  • post-settlement governance entities
  • local government organisations
  • kindergartens and Early Childhood Centres.

In the off chance you’re listening to this and you’re a State Sector organisation then you’re generally not covered – there’s a list of those on the work and income page I mentioned earlier which you can check out for yourself.

As before, your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand.

Your business must be:

  • registered with the New Zealand Companies Office
  • physically located in New Zealand, and
  • your employees legally work in New Zealand.

Sole Traders

Sole traders aren’t required to be registered with the New Zealand Companies Office, but must have:

  • a personal IRD number for paying income tax and GST
  • government licences and permits for their business needs, and
  • qualifications or registrations for their trade or profession.

Sole traders must still meet the requirements to be physically located and legally working in New Zealand.

Legally working in New Zealand means a person is both working in New Zealand and is legally entitled to work in New Zealand.

A person is legally entitled to work in New Zealand if they:

  • are a New Zealand or Australian citizen (including a person born in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau), or
  • have a New Zealand residence class visa (eg, permanent residence visa or returning resident visa), or
  • have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand (eg, work visa or student visa that allows them to work).   Again – you can check out your employee’s visa status using VisaView.

Conversation with employee(s) required

As with the Short-Term Absence Payment, you must have had a conversation with your employee

You must:

  • discuss an application with your employees before making it
  • get their consent to the relevant points outlined in the declaration
  • agree that they fall into one of the eligible groups, and
  • confirm that they cannot work from home.

You should have a conversation about how best to support your employee at this time. For example, they may choose to use existing sick or annual leave and you could use the subsidy to support paying that.

If full paid leave options aren’t available, the subsidy could be used to top up what is available.

Work & Income New Zealand administered

WINZ won’t verify any health-related information or the employee’s reason for self-isolation. When you apply, you’ll need to confirm that you’ve read, understood and agree to a declaration. That includes declaring you’ve confirmed with your employee that they meet the health criteria. 

Travel across and between different alert level boundaries

Now let’s quickly talk about what to do if your business has multiple clinics that cross alert level boundaries – for example, some clinics are in Auckland and some are in the rest of New Zealand.

The government has announced a new process for travel during a resurgence of COVID-19.

During a regional resurgence – which, as I’m recording this episode, we’re currently in right now –  travel into or out of an affected region may be limited with a COVID-19 Alert Level Boundary.

It’s important to remember and note, that travel will only be allowed for specific reasons and within specific parameters. You must adhere to the conditions under which your exemption was granted.

As we keep being told, where possible, travel must be minimised and everyone should work remotely if they can.   Obviously, however, working from home isn’t possible for most employees in veterinary clinics.

If you need to travel across a boundary you’ll need to have proof that you either fit into a permitted activity – in the cases of veterinary clinics that’s already confirmed – you fall under the heading of “animal welfare” or have a specific exemption to travel.

Because veterinary clinics – under the criteria of animal welfare is already considered a permitted activity, you’re already allowed to cross the boundary, but getting the official Business Travel Document will make the process of crossing a boundary much quicker and easier.

The official online place to check out this information is at:

https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/business-travel-across-alert-level-boundaries/

Authorised person at your clinic

It’s recommended that you nominate an authorised person for your clinic.

This person should apply on behalf of your business.

They should have a good understanding of your clinic’s travel operations, such as who is likely to need to travel, which boundaries they would need to cross, and why it’s critical for them to travel.

This could be the clinic principal, practice manager, HR manager or another administrator inside the clinic.

Employees cannot register.  Your clinic will make a request on your behalf if you’re required to travel across the boundary in order to deliver critical services.

There’s a whole swag of categories and subcategories to choose from.   Veterinary clinics will fall under the category of animal welfare.  I won’t list all the other categories here but they’re on the page I mentioned just now if you’re interested in having a look at them.

You need to know which business category you fall into – as I said – animal welfare – as you’ll need this information when you apply.

6 different types of permitted travel

There are 6 different kinds of travel which are permitted, make sure you know the difference between them and apply for the correct type.

Transit

If a worker needs to pass through a restricted region in order to deliver critical services. For example, at the moment, Auckland’s in Alert Level 3, and the rest of NZ’s in Alert Level 2; and your worker needed to travel from Whangarei to Hamilton.

Worker commute

This is where your clinic undertakes critical services that have either: key staff critical to operations who’ll need to commute to work across a boundary; or a significant portion of workers are required to commute across a boundary in order to ensure minimum staff are available for operations.

Multiple business journeys

Clinics that will need to cross the boundary as part of undertaking critical work.

One way travel out of AL3

Where a worker needs to cross the boundary just once out of the Alert Level 3 area, for example if they are re-locating for the duration of the resurgence in order to maintain business continuity for a critical service

One way travel into AL3

Where a worker needs to cross the boundary just once into an Alert Level 3 area, for example if they are re-locating for the duration of the resurgence in order to maintain business continuity for a critical service

Single return trip

Where a worker needs to cross the boundary for a one-off service considered to be critical, and will then be returning.  

Registration to travel required

Clinics need to register to travel across boundaries.

When you – that is, the person applying on behalf of your clinic – they’ll need: 

  • your RealMe login – sign up to RealMe if you do not have a login
  • the purpose of the travel request
  • what boundaries the workers might need to travel across
  • know the type of travel your workers will need to do – those are the six types I just mentioned, and
  • the names of all the workers you’re requesting documents for.

If you don’t have a RealMe account you’ll need to register at realme.govt.nz

This is a government department so with it goes government department type requirements.  My recommendation is do it at a time when you can do it uninterrupted and you have access to different types of identity proving documents and account numbers.  

It’s one of those sites where you’ll need to prove you’re a real bone fide human being and choose a password that meets certain criteria – you know the type, upper and lower case, numbers, blah, blah, blah…   You’ll also need to remember your three security question answers.   And then you’ll need to choose and remember your secret five-digit PIN.

Back to the travel documents for crossing alert level borders – Police may verify your reasons for travel against your documents, so it’s important to ensure you provide accurate information when completing the form.

Because your veterinary business type is already on the list of permitted businesses, you should automatically be notified that your Business Travel Documents are available to download.

Each person’s document will include:

  • their name and document number
  • the business details and business category
  • the travel reason
  • the travel type and boundary they can cross
  • a QR code which boundary officials will scan as they cross the boundary.

It’s recommended you print the documents. The driver of the vehicle should display their document on the dashboard so it’s visible to the boundary officials.

Every person in a vehicle needs to have their documents with them, this can be a physical printed copy or on a smartphone.

Each person will need to present their document to boundary officials. If there’s someone in your vehicle who doesn’t have a document, they may not be able to cross the boundary.

I hope you’ve found this helpful – I realise there was quite a bit of techy stuff – not always the easiest to listen to so if you’ve got this far please let me know – I’d love to be able to say “thank you”. 

As I was reeling off the list of criteria for travel documents it got me thinking to how blessed we are here in Godzone Aotearoa New Zealand – and I’m referring to life outside of Covid – imagine having to have travel documents to travel anywhere – covid or no covid. 

Regardless of your political persuasion or leaning, we are blessed to be able to live in a free country where free travel is a right, not a privilege.  Where our animals are protected by law and cared for by the fantabulous men and women who care for them every day. 

If you enjoy listening to paws claws and wet noses you can easily subscribe to it through whichever platform you’re currently listening to it on now – for example, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts.  Subscribing means each episode is delivered straight to your account as soon as it’s published.

I’d like to ask a huge favour – that you review this podcast – it helps the algorithms make it easier for others to find and helps keep me honest and on track with delivering what you’d like to listen to – thanks!

This is Julie South signing off – thanks for spending the last half an hour or so of your life with me – I appreciate your time.  Take care!  Kia Kaha!

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