With the latest incursion of Covid-19 into the community and the attendant Alert level 4 lockdown, we are trying to gather all of the relevant current advice for retailers and all business on to this page. Last year's pages still have good advice but – as with the virus itself – many of the details have now changed.

Selling online at Level 4

MBIE have issued guidelines on what goods can be sold online by retailers while we are at the highest level of lockdown.

The short version as it applies to books is that educational books (we believe that includes children’s books and textbooks) that are urgently required meet the definition of essential and can be sold, provided you can do so in a way that is safe for you and any staff who are processing sales and that you can support contactless delivery. 

Entertainment and hobby products are expressly prohibited.

The intention behind Level 4 is to restrict movement and interactions outside of your bubble. Our advice is to think very carefully about whether the sale you make meets the clear definitions of “urgent”, “educational” and “safe” before going ahead. There are clear reputational as well as health and safety risks to be considered.

The full current guidance from MBIE:

Reliance will be placed on businesses to determine which products are essential. We expect businesses and consumers to act responsibly.

Any provision of essential non-food consumer products should be by online order with contact-less delivery only.

When determining which non-food consumer products are essential, businesses may usefully consider which products are necessary during the duration of Alert Level 4 for people to:

  • Remain healthy and safe while isolating
  • Work or study from home
  • Stay in communication with whānau and friends and remain up to date with news and health information.

Categories of non-food consumer products that are essential could include:

  • Necessary clothing, footwear and bedding
  • Urgently required white ware and appliances: such as fridges, heaters, washing machines and dryers, vacuum cleaners, fans and dehumidifiers
  • Urgently required cooking, cleaning and laundry equipment
  • Medicinal and hygiene products: such as medication, PPE, first aid products, soaps, shampoos, moisturisers and hand sanitisers
  • Urgently required items for transport maintenance: such as bike and automotive parts and repair kits
  • Materials for urgent home repair
  • Urgently required communication devices: such as mobile phones, computer equipment, modems and internet equipment, televisions and radios
  • Urgently required educational materials and books
  • Urgently required home office equipment

Categories of non-food consumer products that are not essential could include:

  • Exercise, sporting and outdoor recreation equipment: such as weights, indoor training machines, sports rackets and balls, and pool products
  • Entertainment and hobby products: such as gaming consoles, knitting wool, trampolines and swings
  • Beauty products: such as make up

Note the phrase: “We expect businesses and consumers to act responsibly.”

Government Support

These are the current financial support schemes available to businesses that you may be eligible for:

  • COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021:a 2-week lump sum payment to help keep paying your employees.
  • COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment:a one-off $350 payment to pay an employee while they are staying home waiting for Covid test results.
  • COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme: a 2-week lump sum payment to pay employees who have been advised to self-isolate.
  •    COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment: a lump sum for businesses to help them cover essential business costs when there has been an increase in alert levels for over a week.
  •    COVID-19 Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme: a $10,000 loan to help businesses struggling with revenue changes during Covid.

More on each scheme below.

COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021

This is a 2 week lump sum payment to help keep paying your staff while your bookstore is closed. You must pass on every cent of this to your employees – this cannot be used to cover other business costs. 

The criteria: at least a 40% decline (or expected decline) in revenue over the period between 17 August 2021 and 30 August 2021 inclusive, compared to a typical 14-day consecutive period of revenue in the six weeks immediately before the move to Alert Level 4 on 17 August.

The amount: $600 per week for each full-time employee and $359 per week for each part-time employee.

The obligations: 

  •    You can’t make your employees use their leave for the subsidy period
  •    You can’t let any employees go if they’re included in your subsidy application
  •    You must use your “best endeavours” to pay at least 80% of each employee’s wages
  •    You must pay the full amount of the subsidy to each employee if they’re eligible, unless their normal wages are lower, in which case you can pay them that amount
  •    You must discuss your application with your employees; gain their consent to their information being shared with MSD and other agencies, and inform them of the outcome of the application

The warning: You’ll have to repay the subsidy if you end up not actually having a 40% decline in revenue.

More info: https://www.workandincome.govt... to apply: Applications are open now on the Work and Income website here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/online-services/covid-19/apply-checklist-wage-subsidy-august-2021-employers.html

COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment

a small one-off lump sum to pay your employee while they are staying home waiting for Covid test results. 

The criteria: An employee waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test and staying home while waiting for these results who cannot work from home. This also applies to employees who have to stay home and look after a dependent child waiting on Covid test results, or employees who are a household contact or secondary contact of someone who has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case. Casual employees are also eligible.

The amount: A one-off payment of $350 for each eligible employee while they are staying home waiting.

The obligations: 

  •    You can’t unlawfully require your employees use their leave for the subsidy period
  •    You must pay the full amount of the subsidy to each employee if they’re eligible, unless their normal wages are lower, in which case you can pay them that amount
  •    You must discuss your application with your employees; gain their consent to their information being shared with MSD and other agencies, and inform them of the outcome of the application
  •        You can only apply for it once, for each eligible worker, in any 30-day period (unless a health official or doctor tells the worker to get another test).

More info: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/short-term-absence-payment/index.html

How to apply: On the Work and Income website now here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/online-services/covid-19/apply-checklist-short-term-absence-payment-employers.html

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

a payment for your employees who need to self-isolate for the full isolation period and cannot work from home.

The criteria: Employees who have been asked to self-isolate and cannot work from home. It also applies to employees who need to stay home and look after a dependent child who needs support to self-isolate, and employees who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and a doctor or health professional has told them to self-isolate while there is a risk of community transmission.

The amount: $585.80 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week, and $350 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.

The obligations: 

  •        You can’t let any employees go if they’re included in your subsidy application
  •        You must use your “best endeavours” to pay at least 80% of each employee’s wages over the 2-week period
  •        You must pay the full amount of the subsidy to each employee if they’re eligible, unless their normal wages are lower, in which case you can pay them that amount
  •        You must discuss your application with your employees and gain their consent to their information being shared with MSD and other agencies

More info: https://www.workandincome.govt... to apply: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/online-services/covid-19/apply-checklist-leave-support-employers.html

COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment

a payment to help cover wages and fixed costs when there is a change to Level 2 or higher for more than a week.

The criteria: You must have been in business for at least 6 months. The business must be considered “viable and ongoing”. The business must be physically present in New Zealand. You need to have had at least a 30% drop in revenue or a 30% decline in capital-raising ability over a 7-day period due to an increase in alert levels.

The amount: $1,500 per business plus $400 per full-time employee. (The maximum payment is $21,500.)

More info: https://www.ird.govt.nz/covid-19/business-and-organisations/resurgence-support-payment

How to apply: Applications will open at 8am on 24 August 2021 on the Inland Revenue website: https://www.ird.govt.nz/covid-19/business-and-organisations/resurgence-support-payment/apply

Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme

a one-off 5 year loan to help small businesses recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

The criteria: You must employ fewer than 50 staff. You must have been in business for at least 6 months. Your business must be viable. Your business must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, compared with the same month last year.

The amount: You can borrow a maximum of $10,000 plus $1,800 per full-time-equivalent employee. Loans will be interest free if they are paid back within 2 years, otherwise it’s 3%.

The obligations: The loan must not be passed through to shareholders or owners of the business or organisation, such as by a dividend or loan to the shareholders or owners.

More info: https://www.ird.govt.nz/covid-19/business-and-organisations/sbcs/apply

How to apply: Using myIR on the Inland Revenue website. If you don’t have a myIR, you need to get one to apply for this loan. https://services.ird.govt.nz/irsso/login.jsp

Staff

This obviously relates to business owners and managers, too, but it is important to remember your responsibilities to staff who are unable to work from home or who are required to isolate because they have been identified as a close or secondary contact.

You are not able to force an employee to use their annual leave entitlement. You can – in good faith – ask but only if you are unable to reach an agreement can you give the employee 14 days notice of requiring them to take annual leave. A much better option is to try and find them something to do while they are at home and use the Wage Subsidy or the Resurgence Payment or the Leave Support Scheme to help you continue to pay them.

Because of the speed of transmission of the Delta variant, secondary contacts must also isolate until the person who was at a place of interest returns a negative Day 5 test. This is obviously going to increase the numbers of people who are isolating even from inside their bubbles.

From the Ministry’s website:

What to do if you are a secondary contact

Secondary contacts are household members or someone that has had significant contact with someone who has been at a location of interest.

If you live with someone who has been at a location of interest at the specified dates and times, you legally must:

  • isolate at your home or accommodation
  • continue to isolate until the person who was a location of interest gets a negative test result at day 5. If you have not had any contact with the person who was at the location of interest, you can stop isolating as soon as they have a negative result.

If you are a secondary contact, you do not need to get a COVID-19 test, unless you are asked to by public health officials or you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you do get symptoms stay home, call Healthline and get tested.

Please continue to check the places of interest list and understand your status if you have had a brush with Covid - casual or casual plus contact definitions can be found here: https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/contact-tracing/contacts-of-someone-who-has-covid-19/

Contacts of someone who has COVID-19 | Unite against COVID-19If you have been around someone with COVID-19. A contact is someone who has had exposure to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. You are a contact if you were at a location of interest at the same time as a person with COVID-19.covid19.govt.nz