COVID-19 Advice on employees

30 Mar 2020

Advice on employees who want to voluntarily self-isolate and whether an employee who wants to come to work, should

We know a number of growers have questions about employment as it relates to welfare. 

The main themes we are seeing are:

a) employees in an essential horticultural business who want to voluntarily self-isolate.

b) employers who are worried about whether an employee who wants to work, should be coming to work or not. 

It is important to have a conversation with your employer / employee.  If need be, legal advice and medical advice should be obtained or speak with Employment New Zealand on 0800 20 90 20 or email them.


The Prime Ministers statement to the nation identified New Zealanders with the following medical conditions as being most at risk of Covid-19 and advised anyone with these conditions to stay home:

- Respiratory conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and bronchiectasis
- Heart conditions 
- High blood pressure 
- Severe asthma
- Kidney problems
- Diabetes 
- Cancer and blood conditions
- Over 70 years of age.


The key points are:

- There is an expectation that workers in essential businesses continue to work unless they are sick or have one of the above listed conditions or have people living with them that have one of the above listed conditions.

- Both employers and workers are legally required to act in good faith.  This means the employer and worker having a discussion about their situation.  Critical points are the above conditions and how the worker will be kept safe while at work by the employer.  There is no hard and fast rule – it is what is best in this most unusual and difficult Covid-19 situation.  Written notes should be kept by both parties. 

- After this discussion and consideration of all the circumstances: workers should not be forced to go to work and employers can ask that a worker not attend for work.

- Employers have health and safety duties as always, but in these circumstances, also need to implement advice from the Ministry of Health and other COVID-19 authorities. Employers need to take all reasonable precautions.

Make sure you read the guidelines for essential workers and essential businesses from Employment New Zealand, available here:


Other handy links:

For employers:

For employees:

Information on vulnerable people:

Covid-19 guide for Businesses: Simpson Grierson has shared some Questions and Answers (see section E for Employee issues):


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