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Here's what you need to know

With the arrival of Coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) in New Zealand, it is important to be prepared and consider how this affects your business and obligations to your employees.

Updated 3rd April 2020.

Retail NZ is working hard to ensure that the Government understands the impacts of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, particularly on the retail sector. We will keep this page updated regularly to help retailers around New Zealand.

New Zealand will move into full lockdown by Wednesday 25th March 2020 as the Prime Minister announced the nation will move from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 4. This means that all non-essential businesses must close and people must stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are working tirelessly to get clarity on what is considered an essential retail business and when let you know as soon as we hear more from Government. You can see more information on essential businesses here.

Retailers are concerned about the ever-changing list of "essential" goods able to be sold, and real concerns about foreign businesses stepping up online sales into New Zealand at this time. We have been raising this issue consistently with officials, and you can read our letter to Ministers seeking a scaling back of restrictions on online sales, so long as this can be done safely.

On March 27, the Government announced additional changes to the more than $9 billion wage subsidy scheme. These changes are effective immediately and include:

  1. Businesses accessing the scheme must still undertake best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their pre-COVID income. Where that is not possible - in particular where a business has no activity whatsoever due to the shutdown and workers are not working any hours - they must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker. Where an employee's income is normally less than the subsidy, they should be paid their normal salary.
  2. Businesses must undertake to keep employees in employment for the period of the subsidy.
  3. The previous sick leave scheme will be folding into the wage subsidy scheme to prevent double-dipping. The original sick leave scheme was designed when few people were in self-isolation, and it is no longer fit for purpose. We are working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

As of 23.59pm on March 19, New Zealand closed its borders to all international travellers. For the time being, only New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their partners and children will be allowed into the country as the Government tries to slow the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Alert Level 4 and your business

  • People instructed to stay at home
  • Educational facilities closed
  • Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities
  • Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
  • Travel severely limited
  • Major reprioritisation of healthcare services

Essential businesses

The Government has proved some clarity on what is considered an essential retail businesses. Here are the essential businesses and services that are allowed to open:

* Special registration requirements apply.

If your store does not feature on this list, at this stage you will be required to close your operations from 11.59pm on Wednesday 25 March.

You can read more about essential businesses and the registration requirements, or get in touch with our Advice Service via email.

Operating online

The Government has decided that the sale of essential goods such as heaters, whiteware and computers will be allowed - in recognition of the need for people to safely isolate, stay connected to one another and work or study from home. Essential goods have been classified as those products that will keep people warm (heaters, blankets), replace key household appliances, and maintain people's health. Examples of non-food related essential products are blankets, fridges, heaters and computers or tablets to work from home or do distance learning, or simply connect with people.

In order to protect public safety, there are conditions around the selling of these goods. Businesses must operate responsibly and only make available for sale genuine essential goods while ensuring we restrict the movement of people and workers to combat COVID-19. The public must order responsibly purchasing only those items that are absolutely necessary to facilitate life and work during the lock down period.

In order to be able to sell these essential goods, businesses must:

  1. Only take orders online or by phone and keep storefronts shut.
  2. Take orders for only essential non-food goods.
  3. Home deliver all essential goods in a contactless way and not allow people to visit stores to select or collect goods.
  4. Take all appropriate public health measures to protect their staff and customers (e.g. physical distancing, hygiene basics, appropriate personal protective equipment).
  5. Notify MBIE that they meet these conditions and intend to offer essential goods for sale and provide a list of those products.

MBIE is currently establishing a register to collect this information. If you wish to pre-register immediately, you can email with the following information: business name; business website; contact phone number; business service address; New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) and a list of the products you intend to offer (by type).

If a business cannot meet these conditions, they should not offer to sell essential goods and should not be trading online while the country is at Alert Level 4. If businesses are too generous in their interpretation of what is 'essential' or flout these rules, Government will take further action. Information on Essential Services is being regularly updates.

Read our most recent letter to Ministers about scaling back restrictions on online sales.

Specialty food stores

There is no firm information about specialty and bulk food stores, greengrocers, bakers and butchers. At this stage, you are required to close, pending any further clarification from the Government.

Staff wages, business continuity and redundancies

You must notify your employees if your business is closing down over the next four weeks. We have prepared a template for you, which you can access FREE. When deciding whether your employees are entitled to be paid or not during the shutdown period, you must first refer to your employment agreement. If the employment agreement does not specify payment obligations for this situation then it is between the employer and employee to determine how the time of will be paid.

Options for this period could include annual leave, special leave, unpaid leave, the wages subsidy etc.

All businesses can apply for the wage subsidy, regardless of whether they remain open or have been forced to close if they can demonstrate or forecast a 30% reduction in revenue as a result of COVID-19. You must make an effort to pay your workers a minimum of 80% of their normal wage, including the subsidy.

Should you find that redundancies are necessary, the same process as usual applies, however given the circumstances, discussions can occur over the phone/skype and timeframes will be shorter. Get in touch with our Advice Service for guidance on redundancies as a result of COVID-19.

Do you have questions about COVID-19 and your business? Take a look at our COVID-19 FAQs.

As you navigate this time, please don't hesitate to contact our Advice Service should you require any assistance. You can ring us on 0800 472 472 (1800 805 0831 from Australia) or send us an email on