18 August 2021
The return to Level 4 Lockdown overnight is as New York Yankee baseball team manager Yogi Berra famously said back in the 1960’s, a case of “déjà vu all over again.” And while this is familiar territory there are some significant differences between our current circumstances and the lockdown, we all experienced as a team of 5 million 16 months ago.
First up we are dealing with the more aggressive Delta variant which emerged following the mutation of Covid-19 some months ago. The news that a fully vaccinated health professional has contracted the variant is a concern. Locations of interest now involve high risk areas including a casino, church, school and hospital. (locations of interest).
Next, we can add uncertainty to the mix. Back in March 2020 we knew pretty much from day one how long the lockdown would carry on for. All we know this moment is three days here and seven days up north. Little guidance was provided during this afternoon’s briefing and as the Prime Minister indicated the question of how long Level 4 will continue comes down to the fact that the source has yet to be identified. The current time frames may well change and while it’s tempting to make a prediction, suffice to say it now looks as though we may not see the back of Level 4 on the weekend as first indicated.
So, while there are differences just like Yogi’s experience there is also continuity and familiarity for businesses in this “space;” our continuing and unfolding new normal.
From an employment law perspective, it is important to keep in mind nothing has changed. The message that employment law remains intact and unaffected was brought home in 2020. If you attended any of the Road Shows in February, you would recall the red font used in MBIE emails at the start of the year asking for your patience (some say this was the same colour red used to signify one of the political parties).
MBIE’s request for patience then attested to the number of employers whose employment processes were short circuited by the circumstances we faced and who were then held to account by the Employment Relations Authority. The concern from where we sit as your award winning In-house legal team is there is still lingering discontent in the workplace and today’s lockdown probably won't help matters.
What will help is communication. If you haven’t already done so we encourage members to reach out to staff and establish regular contact. This could be by phone, email or zoom. On one hand the employment lawyer in me says this would be by way of being “communicative and constructive in maintaining the employment relationship.” Diarising these sessions, may prove useful down the road if an issue does arise. To be sure, issues will arise.
On the other hand, the friend and colleague in me says it’s the right thing to do at the right time. As explained, this lockdown could go on for a while and staff wellbeing could be affected. The Business New Zealand network is looking at that, and you can expect to see some communication around this very issue by the end of the week.
If the lockdown does continue then business would be even more affected than it already is. We recommend employers think strategically assessing how they are placed and what changes they need to make or needs they want to fill.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, for example, questions about:
Or if you just want to talk and get some feedback, please don’t hesitate to ring.
David Browne | Legal Team Manager
David Browne | Senior Solicitor/Legal Team Manager | 03 456 1812 | 021 225 6938 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathryn McAuley | Solicitor | 03 456 1813 | 021 197 4603 | email@example.com
Persia Templeton | Senior Solicitor | 0508 656 757 | firstname.lastname@example.org