Employee rights during COVID-19

Your employment rights, rules for employers and businesses, and support we have 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.

Employers don’t always apply for all their employees, and they don’t have to apply at all if they don’t want to. However, they still need to follow employment law.

Support employers can apply for

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

You’re waiting for COVID-19 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 test result, and you can’t work from home. This includes if you’re waiting for a test result for:

  • yourself
  • someone in your household
  • someone who depends on you for care.

Read about the Short-Term Absence Payment

You have to self-isolate

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.

You may have to self-isolate if you:

  • have COVID-19 and have been advised by a medical practitioner or directed by a Medical Officer of Health to self-isolate
  • have been directed to self-isolate, or are a parent or caregiver of a dependant who has been directed to self-isolate, by a Medical Officer of Health
  • are identified as a close contact of a person with COVID-19 who has been advised to self-isolate by a medical practitioner or through the National Contact Tracing process
  • are, or have a member of your household who is, a person most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and a medical practitioner has advised you to self-isolate.

See more about the Leave Support Scheme

The business has had a drop in revenue because of Alert Level 3 or 4

Your employer can apply if:

  • their business is affected by a change in COVID-19 alert levels
  • they meet all the criteria.

Find out more about the COVID-19 wage subsidy

Who applies

You can’t apply for yourself, unless you’re self-employed. Your employer is the only one who can apply for COVID-19 support to help pay wages.

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.

Wage subsidies

If your employer won’t tell you if they’ve named you in their application for a COVID-19 Wage Subsidy, the Employer Search Tool will show if they’ve been paid a wage subsidy.

Employer Search Tool – Ministry of Social Development

This tool will show you if your employer had been paid a COVID-19 Wage Subsidy, but it will not show which employees were named in the employer’s application. This is to protect people’s individual information and privacy.

You can check if your employer named you as an employee on their application if:

  • the tool shows they were paid a wage subsidy
  • you haven’t been paid
  • you can’t find out from your employer if they applied for you.

Fill in an MSD form to see if you were included in your employer's application

We can only tell you this if your employer’s application has been processed.

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 pay, 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 ordinary wages or salary pay is lawfully below the amount of the subsidy, you must be paid the amount of your ordinary wages or salary.

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.

Leave and pay rights information from Employment New Zealand

Employment law

Normal employment law still applies during COVID-19, even at different alert levels.

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 can help if you think your employer isn’t following employment law, or if you have questions.

Employment in different alert levels from Employment New Zealand

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 wages 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 either:

  • working different hours
  • not being paid your usual rate.

This helps us pay you the right amount.

Find out if you need to declare your income

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

MyMSD login

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

How to use Service Express


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.