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Here's what you need to know

With the high likelihood of an imported case 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.

Under the Health & Safety Work Act 2015 you are required to provide your employees, contractors and customers with the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, so far as reasonably practicable. This would include identifying risks related to the Coronavirus and taking steps to prevent these as much as reasonably practicable.

  • Keep up to date with the Ministry of Health information and recommendations.
  • Educate your employees on the symptoms of Coronavirus and how to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Provide accessible tissues and hand washing facilities.
  • Keep up to date with staff members who are off work sick and encourage staff members that are sick and displaying symptoms similar to Influenza, to stay home and recover.

This is unlikely, but the Ministry of Health will provide further guidance if and when there is an outbreak. Factors to consider when deciding whether to temporarily close your store are your health and safety obligations to employees, contractors and customers, where the outbreak is located, and any other current information from the Ministry of Health.

If you have staff members who are sick, they are entitled to use their sick leave and take appropriate time to rest and recover. If they do not have any available sick leave entitlement you may approve sick leave without pay.

You should advise sick staff members that have symptoms of Coronavirus, and have travelled within a month, to phone Healthline (for free) on 0800 611 116 or a doctor.

You have an obligation to protect the health of your employees and prevent illness so it may be reasonable to request the staff member to go home so they can recover and to prevent putting other staff members at risk. If they do not have any available sick leave entitlement you can discuss with them the option of using unpaid or alternative leave options.

If a staff member does not want to come into work because of Coronavirus have a discussion with them around the current Coronavirus situation, what you are doing to protect your staff, the current Ministry of Health recommendations and whether you require them to work.

MFAT has useful information for employees who are considering travelling - refer them to

Find the latest information and recommendation on the Coronavirus through Ministry of Health.

Published in the 3rd February 2020 edition of Talking Shop.