The Employers and Manufacturers Association has rallied members on the first day of New Zealand’s four-week lockdown.
The EMA, which represents 7000 businesses, called on members to “hang in there” as the country came to a near standstill.
“We know businesses are really struggling but it’s been heartening to hear our members and other businesses who have called into our AdviceLine focus on how they can look after their employees and keep the business afloat until the restrictions are lifted and things start heading back towards some level of normality,” said EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley.
“While the call volumes have been extreme – up to 1,000 per day compared with normal volumes of 100-150 per day – the bulk of the calls have been around managing the combination of wage top ups and subsidies from Government, and matching Government’s expectations that employers will try to continue paying at least 80% of normal wages/salaries.”
O’Riley said many employers would not be able to meet that 80% expectation but many others were trying.
“They are being quite creative around work-from-home and redeployment options, with some even changing the focus of their production to meet needs created by the national effort to contain this virus.
“While using up sick leave is the first option to help manage costs, we are also aware that employers are talking to staff about using other leave options to manage through the shut-down. Employers can’t force them to use those leave options, but we are aware of cases where staff are recognising the gravity of the situation and volunteering up leave entitlements.”
O’Riley said other avenues of assistance, such as the Government’s and banks’ finance guarantee scheme, were still being developed.
“We’re already getting feedback that the $250,000 [revenue] threshold may be too low and we’re passing that feedback through to finance minister Grant Robertson. There are also options used overseas, a furlough system, where employers effectively retain the employment relationship with staff, but stand them down temporarily, giving staff immediate access to social support benefits.
“That means employers don’t have to go through the process of making people redundant and then re-hiring at some later date. Technically your people remain employees but are able to access the assistance they may need and when the upturn comes you can immediately redeploy the staff you know and trust.”
EMA’s AdviceLine 0800 300 362 for businesses is open during normal office hours.
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