As Omicron spreads in New Zealand, many businesses may be disrupted by employees who must be tested and/or self-isolate and are unable to work from home during this time. Employers, including self-employed workers, can use the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme (LSS) and Short-Term Absence Payment (STAP) if they find themselves in this situation.
Leave Support Scheme
The LSS is available for a week at a time. To be eligible for a one-week payment of the LSS, an employer or self-employed person must have instructed one of their employees to self-isolate for at least four consecutive calendar days. A second week of the LSS might be requested if the employee has to keep self-isolating for at least 11 calendar days. Employers may request third and subsequent leave support payments for any additional seven days an employee must self-isolate.
The LSS is paid at the following rate:
$600 per week for full-time workers (those who worked 20 hours or more per week before being forced to self-isolate) or,
$359 per week for part-time workers (those who worked 20 hours or less per week before being forced to self-isolate).
Criteria For Eligibility
A medical practitioner (e.g. a GP or hospital doctor), a medical officer of health (e.g. the Ministry of Health or a public health unit), or the National Investigation and Tracing Centre must have instructed an employee or self-employed person to self-isolate for them to be eligible for the LSS.
For one of the following reasons, the employee must be unable to work from home, and their period of self-isolation must be at least four days long:
they have COVID-19,
they are a close contact of a person who has COVID-19,
they are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been advised to self-isolate,
they are in the category of people most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19,
they have household members in the category of people who are most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
The LSS is available to eligible employers which includes registered businesses, the self-employed and sole traders, registered charities, non-government organisations, and incorporated societies. Prior to applying for the LSS employers must discuss the matter with the affected employee and obtain their consent.
Short-Term Absent Payment
The STAP is available to help employers, including self-employed people, to pay their employees who need to stay at home while they wait for a COVID-19 test result and cannot work from home.
Each qualifying employee is eligible for $359 in STAP, regardless of whether they work full-time or part-time. In a 30-day period, each employee can only apply for the STAP once (unless a doctor or heath official instructs the employee to get a second test).
Criteria For Eligibility
To be eligible for the STAP, an employee or self-employed person must be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, be staying at home while doing so, and be unable to work from home. The STAP is also available if an employee of an organisation or a self-employed person is:
the parent or caregiver of a dependant who is staying at home while waiting for their COVID-19 test result, and the dependant needs support to do so safely, or
a household member or secondary contact of someone who is a close contact of a person with COVID-19, and the employee has been advised to stay at home while waiting for the close contact’s test results.
An individual who has taken the COVID-19 test must have done so within the last eight weeks before applying for the STAP. Registered firms, self-employed and sole traders, registered charities, non-government organisations, incorporated societies, and local government organisations are all eligible employers.
Employers must clarify the situation with the affected employee and acquire their consent before filing for the STAP.
Applying for the LSS and STAP
Employers and self-employed people can apply for the LSS using the online application form found here.
The STAP can also be applied for online using the application form found here.
You may only get one COVID-19 payment for an employee at any one time (i.e. you cannot concurrently get the LSS and the STAP for the same employee).
If you require assistance assessing your business’ eligibility or applying for the LSS or STAP please contact a Work and Income advisor by phone here.