Here’s what you need to know about working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What must you do?
As a worker you must:
- take reasonable care of your own health and safety and ensure that your actions don’t cause harm to yourself or others
- comply with any reasonable instructions, policies or procedures on how to work in a safe and healthy way.
You should also follow all COVID-19 government advice in your personal life to reduce the risk to your co-workers or others at your work.
What must your business do?
- must eliminate or minimise the health and safety risks arising from COVID-19, so far as reasonably practicable, and
- should be following government advice when deciding how to deal with the risks.
If you’re working from home, your business must manage the health and safety risks you face there.
If you’re not working from home, the key ways your business can manage the risks are by:
- supporting people with flu-like symptoms to stay home
- ensuring appropriate physical distancing
- frequently cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- maintaining good hygiene, including encouraging you to have good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette
- keeping records to support contact tracing.
Your business must:
- involve you when identifying risks and possible control measures
- make sure you’ve been trained to carry out your work in a healthy and safe way, including for any new measures put in place because of COVID-19
- provide a way for you to raise health and safety concerns.
Should you use or wear personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Most work doesn’t routinely require the use of PPE. If this is the case for your work, your business should:
- listen to any concerns you or your co-workers may have about the risk to your work health and safety created by COVID-19
- engage with you and your co-workers to identify and assess the new risks created by COVID-19, complete a risk assessment, and put appropriate control measures in place. (This may or may not include PPE.)
- as a minimum, follow public health requirements
- manage the risks by implementing as many control measures as possible to minimise exposure to infection for you and your co-workers,including meeting physical distancing requirements
- review and monitor the risks regularly to make sure control measures remain effective.
PPE is not a substitute for regular hand washing and proper cough and sneeze etiquette. If PPE is used as a COVID-19 control measure, it should be used according to public health guidance(external link).
How can you have good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette?
Basic hygiene includes remembering to:
- cough or sneeze into your elbow or cover your mouth and nose with tissues
- put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately
- wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds) and dry them
- use alcohol-based hand sanitiser when you can’t wash your hands (follow the safety instructions on the label)
- avoid touching your face if your hands are not clean
- avoid contact with people who are unwell.
What should you do if you feel unwell?
If you feel unwell, seek medical advice from your GP or Healthline (Phone 0800 358 5453).
The symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- a new or worsening cough
- a high temperature (at least 38°C)
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- sneezing and runny nose
- temporary loss of smell.
Don’t come back to work until you’ve recovered, or been tested and cleared of having COVID-19.
Can you take public transport to work?
Follow government advice(external link) on using public transport.
What should you do if you’re feeling unsafe at work?
If you’re feeling unsafe at work, talk to your business in the first instance and work together to find the best way to eliminate or minimise the risk. Your business should be able to explain why the activity is needed, and what the steps they have put in place can and can’t do.
You can also:
- talk to your health and safety representative, if you have one at your workplace
- get in contact with your union
- let us know by telling us about your concern through our web form.
There may be a situation where you believe your only option is to stop working. Under section 83 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, you have the right to do so in certain circumstances, but this should be a last resort, where exposure to COVID-19 is a very real and immediate or imminent risk. That might happen where insufficient steps are in place to properly manage the risk.
If you choose to take this step, it’s important to tell the person you work for as soon as possible and try to resolve the matter with them. You should also involve your health and safety representative if you have one. Your manager is entitled to direct you to do alternative work that is safe and within the scope of your employment agreement or other contract. You can also agree to do work outside of this scope.
You can find advice on Employment New Zealand’s website(external link) for what to do if you have reasons not to go to work.