Employee rights during COVID-19

Employment rights, rules for employers and businesses, and support available during COVID-19.

As an employee, you can't apply for a COVID-19 support payment for yourself, unless you are self-employed.

Your employer is the only one who can apply for you and they are not required to apply for this support. However, they still need to follow employment law.

The type of support your employer can apply for depends on your own situation or the business' situation.

You're waiting for COVID-19 PCR test results

Your employer can apply for the Short-Term Absence Payment as a contribution to the costs of your wages or salary if you're at home waiting for a COVID-19 PCR test result, and you can't work from home. This includes if you're waiting for a test result for:

  • yourself
  • someone who depends on you for care.

You can't get the Short-Term Absence Payment when you take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) because the results are quick.

You have to self-isolate

You will need to self-isolate if you either:

  • have COVID-19
  • are a close or household contact of a person who has COVID-19 and public health guidelines require this
  • are the parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been advised to self-isolate because they have COVID-19 or are a contact of a person with COVID-19 and public health guidelines require this
  • are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and a medical practitioner has told you to do this
  • have household members who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and a medical practitioner has told them to do this.

Whether you’re working or not, you could get extra support while you and your family are self-isolating. This could include money for urgent costs or support from a community organisation near you.

Your employer can apply for a Leave Support Scheme payment as a contribution to the costs of your wages or salary if you have to self-isolate and you can't work while you're in self-isolation.

Who applies

You can’t apply for the Leave Support Scheme or Short-Term Absence Payment for yourself, unless you’re self-employed. Your employer is the only one who can apply for COVID-19 support to help pay wages or salary.

If your employer makes an application and you are named as an employee in the application, they must tell you first. They must ask for your consent to give us some of your details in the application. This is part of the declaration they make when they apply.

Finding out if your employer has named you in an application

If your employer makes an application and you are named as an employee in the application, they must:

  • tell you they’re applying for you
  • ask for your consent first to give us some of your details in the application.

This is part of the declaration they make when they apply.

If you know your employer has applied for COVID-19 support, talk to them first if you:

  • haven’t been paid
  • think your pay is wrong
  • have questions about how COVID-19 support is paid.

Your pay

If your employer gets a COVID-19 payment and you are named as an employee in their application, they must use their best endeavours to pay you either:

  • your ordinary wages or salary
  • at least 80% of your ordinary wages or salary, if you and your employer have agreed this in writing first.

If they can’t do that, and you and your employer have agreed in writing that your ordinary wages or salary will be the amount of the wage subsidy, they must pay you at least that amount.

If your pay (actual or average – whichever applies) is lower than the Leave Support Scheme rate paid to your employer for you, you will be paid at least that amount. However, if your employer is applying for the Leave Support Scheme based on your average hours, further obligations apply for your employer.

Your employer cannot pay you less than your ordinary wages or salary unless you have both agreed to this in writing.

Getting a COVID-19 payment does not change existing employment law obligations.

Employment law

Normal employment law still applies during COVID-19, even at different traffic light settings.

Your employer can't change your employment agreement unless you agree to the change first. Your employer still has to follow your employment agreement during COVID-19, including how much you get paid.

Employment New Zealand has information about your employer’s obligations under employment law. They also have information about leave and pay during COVID-19.

If you’re a Work and Income client

If you're getting payments from us and you normally need to declare your income, it's important you continue to do this as usual. You need to declare any payments your employer pays to you – whether these are your ordinary wages or salary, or wages or salary paid to you using a COVID-19 payment. If you are self-employed, you need to declare any COVID-19 payments you receive.

You need to declare your new income if you are not being paid your usual rate. You’ll also need to declare your income again if it changes when you go back to work. This helps us pay you the right amount.

If you do need to declare your income, you can do this using MyMSD.

You can also use our automated phone line, Service Express, by calling 0800 33 30 30


This is a summary only. If there is any difference between the information on this page and the information in the relevant declaration, the declaration prevails.