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With the Government implementing new procedures from 1 a.m. 16 March 2020 requiring anyone arriving in NZ to self-isolate for 14 days, what does this mean if this affects one of your employees?

Well, first and foremost all employees are entitled to at least 5 days paid sick leave per year, and if an employee has not taken sick leave, they are entitled to accumulate up to 15 days from the previous three years sick leave plus the five current sick leave days to have a total of 20 days paid sick leave entitlement. If your employment agreement provides greater than this minimum legislated entitlement, then your employees may have more paid sick leave available.

If an employee is returning from an overseas holiday after 1a.m. 16 March 2020, or they have been told to self-isolate, they will have no choice but to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. Given the current crisis, McKone Consultancy recommends that employers treat this as sick leave. Where the employee has paid sick leave available, they should be paid for the sick leave. If you only provide the minimum sick leave entitlement, then contractually you only need to pay for your employee's entitlement.

This means if the employee has accumulated sick leave, the 14 days can be treated as paid sick leave. However, if the employee does not have accumulated sick leave, then contractually, the employee may end up having part or all of the 14 days of self-isolation as unpaid sick leave.

However, if you are able to get the employee to undertake work from home, which does not require them to have physical contact with clients or colleagues, McKone Consultancy encourages employers to use this option. This would mean that because the employee can work from home, they continue to be paid as if at work. Whether you are able to do this will depend on the nature of the work your business undertakes.

If you are not able to provide work for employees to perform from home, and the employee does not have sufficient paid sick leave to cover their period of forced self-isolation, there may be other options available. This includes using annual leave to cover some, or all, of the self-isolation period. However, the employee must request that the period gets covered by annual leave. Employers cannot require an employee to use their annual leave. You may also want to consider offering paid special leave for any period of self-isolation that an employee does not have paid sick leave. This is one way to support your employees and build their loyalty to your business.

If you require any support to deal with staff who have been instructed to self-isolate contact McKone Consultancy today.

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