Managing staff leave due to COVID-19

Managing staff leave due to COVID-19

If an employee at your school or kura is sick with COVID-19, or required to self-isolate, your first considerations should be to look after your community, reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.

If your employee is sick with COVID-19 or needs to care for a dependent who is sick with COVID-19, their absence from work should be recorded as sick leave or domestic sick leave (in the same manner as time off for any other illness).

If your employee does not have enough sick leave to cover the period they are ill, you may provide additional paid discretionary or paid special leave in accordance with your usual leave policy.

There may be instances where an employee may still need to self-isolate after they have recovered from COVID-19 and before they are cleared to return to work. When this happens, if possible, they should work from home and be paid as normal. If the staff member is unable to work from home, the absence should be recorded as discretionary paid leave. If the staff member is caring for dependents who are self-isolating due to testing positive for COVID-19, the absence should be recorded as domestic sick leave.

Disregarded sick leave

If an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they can request COVID-19 disregarded sick leave at the conclusion of their absence. Disregarded sick leave only applies when employee is sick with COVID-19 themselves. This does not apply to leave taken to care for dependents.

Scenarios for applying leave

The scenarios outlined in the table below apply regardless of the COVID-19 Protection Framework setting your community is operating under.

Teachers and Principals

Situation Leave Type How to claim
Teacher or Principal has contracted COVID-19 If the teacher or principal is sick with COVID-19 and is unable to work from home, the absence should be recorded as sick leave. 
If the teacher or principal has an insufficient sick leave balance to cover the absence, discretionary paid leave should be provided. 
The school or kura may request disregarded sick leave for the teacher or principal at the end of their absence. 
 
Sick leave should be recorded as it usually would be for any other sickness. 
To apply for disregarded sick leave, the school or kura must submit the completed online form (Link)
Schools and kura will need to hold a record of evidence that the period of leave was due to the teacher or principal contracting COVID-19.
 
Teacher or Principal is required to self-isolate due to public health advice, such as being a household contact.  Where the teacher or principal is required to self-isolate they should work from home where possible.
If the teacher or principal is working from home no absence needs to be recorded.
A leave claim is not required if the teacher or principal is working from home.
If the teacher or principal is unable to work from home, the absence should be recorded as discretionary paid leave. To record discretionary paid leave schools should complete a Novo12 form using the code DISCR. If you have any issues processing discretionary paid leave, please email: employment.relations@education.govt.nz
Schools should hold evidence for the reason of the period of that leave applies.
 
Teacher or Principal is required to care for a dependent person who has contracted COVID-19

If the teacher is not themselves required to isolate, but needs to care for a dependent person who has contracted COVID-19, and is unable to work from home, the absence should be recorded as domestic sick leave. 

If the teacher or principal is subsequently required to isolate beyond the period of their dependent’s sickness they should be moved to discretionary paid.
If the teacher or principal has an insufficient sick leave balance to cover the absence, discretionary paid leave should be provided. 

To record discretionary paid leave schools should complete a Novo12 form using the code DISCR. If you have any issues processing discretionary paid leave, please email: employment.relations@education.govt.nz. 
Schools should hold evidence for the reason of the period of that leave applies.
 

Support Staff

Situation Leave Type How to claim
Support staff or non-teaching staff member has contracted COVID-19 If the staff member is self-isolating and unable to work from home due to contracting COVID-19, sick leave should be recorded. 
If the staff member has insufficient sick leave to cover this period, discretionary paid leave should be provided. The school or kura may grant disregarded sick leave for the staff member at the end of their absence. Check for criteria here.
 

Sick leave should be recorded as usual. If the staff member is required to isolate beyond the period of their sickness they should be moved to discretionary paid leave once they are no longer sick.

To have disregarded sick leave which you have granted to support staff processed, you need to complete the online form,

To record discretionary paid leave schools should complete a Novo12 form using the code DISCR. If you have any issues processing discretionary paid leave email:
employment.relations@education.govt.nz

Schools should hold evidence for the reason of the period of that leave applies.
 

Support staff or non-teaching staff member is required to care for a person dependent who has contracted COVID-19 If the staff member is self-isolating due to being a household contact of a positive COVID-19 case and is caring for a dependent who has contracted COVID-19, the leave should be recorded as domestic sick leave. 
If the staff member has insufficient sick leave, discretionary paid leave should be provided.
 

Sick leave should be recorded as usual.

If the staff member is required to isolate beyond the period of their dependent's sickness they should be moved to discretionary paid leave once the dependent is no longer sick.

To record discretionary paid leave schools should complete a Novo12 form using the code DISCR. If you have any issues processing discretionary paid leave email:
employment.relations@education.govt.nz. Disregarded sick leave does not apply to discretionary paid leave.
 

Support staff or non-teaching staff member is required to self-isolate due to being a household contract of a positive COVID-19 

Where staff are required to self-isolate, they should work from home where possible.

If the staff member is working from home, no absence needs to be recorded.
 

A claim is not required if the staff member is working from home.
If the staff member is self-isolating and unable to work from home, the absence should be recorded as discretionary paid leave.

To record discretionary paid leave schools should complete a Novo12 form using the code DISCR. If you have any issues processing 

Note: Discretionary paid leave covers working days/hours the staff member would have normally worked.

Note: Disregarded sick leave means time off for sickness or injury isn’t deducted from an employee's sick leave balance. Only teachers, principals and staff covered by the Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement 2022-2024 and the Kaiārahi i te Reo and Therapists’ Collective Agreement 2022-2024 (or the equivalent individual employment agreement) qualify for disregarded sick leave and it only applies where certain criteria are met.

Funding: Additional relief funding is available to assist with COVID-19 related teaching and non-teaching staff related absences. You can find more information and apply here:

Additional relief funding for Term 1 and Term 2 2022

Download
Download
COVID-19 Leave scenarios
Download Leave scenarios in Word
Download Leave scenarios in Word

What to do if a staff member wishes to work from home?

Employers and employees need to discuss, in good faith, any changes to work arrangements, leave and pay, or health and safety measures.

In the absence of an agreement to alternative working arrangements, employees must return to work under all traffic light settings if there is no reason the employee needs to stay away from work under public health guidance from the Ministry of Health.

However, there may be circumstances where a staff member doesn’t want to work on-site because they feel it puts them, or others at risk.

Schools should take a health and safety risk-based approach to understand and investigate the concerns of their employees in good faith. You will need to determine an appropriate response in line with employer and employee duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and advice from the Ministry of Health. You should engage your school’s health and safety committee and/or union delegates about the measures that are in place to sustain a healthy and safe workplace.

Some relevant factors might be the risk to:

  • the employee (e.g. their own health status if they remain in the workplace, based on medical advice)
  • other people at school (e.g. if a person in the employee’s home is sick with COVID-19 symptoms but has not yet been tested, or is in self-isolation).
  • other people in the employee’s household

Under health and safety law, staff member(s) may stop working if they believe the work would expose them or any other person to a serious risk to health and safety arising from an immediate or imminent evidenced exposure to a hazard such as COVID-19 infection.

They must discuss their concerns with you and may only continue with that course of action if they reasonably believe that risk still remains.

If after considering public health guidelines and health and safety advice, you do not agree the employee should self-isolate, you should work with them to try to identify why they consider the work is unsafe, and rectify the matter, so far as is reasonably practicable.

While your employee’s health and safety concerns are being resolved you may require them to carry out suitable alternative work, either onsite or working from home. You may also agree on a leave arrangement such as annual leave (for non-teaching staff) or unpaid discretionary leave.