Who can get the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

Employers, including sole traders, need to meet certain criteria to apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

This payment used to be called 'COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support' because it was only available to essential businesses. It's now called 'COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme' because it's available for all employers who meet the criteria.


From midday on 28 September 2020 there will be changes to who can get the Leave Support Scheme and to the length of the payments. Find out more about these changes.

Criteria you need to meet

  • You must be an eligible employer

    The majority of New Zealand employers are eligible to apply. This includes:

    • registered charities
    • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
    • the self-employed and sole traders
    • contractors
    • incorporated societies, and
    • post-settlement governance entities
    • local government organisations
    • kindergartens and Early Childhood Centres.

    State sector organisations

    State sector organisations are generally not eligible to receive the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme. This includes:

    • government agencies, such as:
      • Ministry of Health
      • District Health Boards
      • Inland Revenue
      • Ministry of Social Development
    • Crown entities, such as:
      • Kāinga Ora
      • Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
    • schools
    • tertiary education institutions, such as:
      • universities
      • polytechnics
      • institutes of technology
      • Wānanga

    State sector organisations do not include:

    • local Government, such as:
      • Regional councils
      • City councils
      • District councils
    • kindergartens
    • Early Childhood Centres
    • Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

    A state sector organisation, with its monitoring agency, can ask for an exception to become eligible to apply for the Leave Support Scheme. State sector organisations should contact their monitoring agency if they wish to discuss this.

    Businesses contracted to provide services to state sector employers

    These businesses (eg cleaning, security, etc) are not state sector employers. They can apply for the Leave Support Scheme if they meet the other qualifications.

  • Your business must be in New Zealand

    Your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand.

    This means your business must be:

    • registered with the New Zealand Companies Office
    • physically located in New Zealand, and
    • your employees legally work in New Zealand.

    Sole traders

    Sole traders are not required to be registered with the New Zealand Companies Office, but must have:

    • a personal IRD number for paying income tax and GST
    • government licences and permits for their business needs, and
    • qualifications or registrations for their trade or profession.

    Sole traders must still meet the requirements to be physically located and legally working in New Zealand.

  • Your employees must be legally working in New Zealand

    Legally working in New Zealand means a person is both working in New Zealand and is legally entitled to work in New Zealand.

    A person is legally entitled to work in New Zealand if they:

    • are a New Zealand or Australian citizen (including a person born in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau), or
    • have a New Zealand residence class visa (eg, permanent residence visa or returning resident visa), or
    • have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand (eg, work visa or student visa that allows them to work).

    For more information, visit the Employment New Zealand website.

  • Your employee must meet health criteria

    You must have employees who cannot work because they either:

    • are at higher risk if they get COVID-19, and Ministry of Health guidelines recommend they self-isolate while public health restrictions are in place
    • have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and must self-isolate for 14 days (as required by Ministry of Health guidelines)
    • have tested positive for COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate until they've been cleared by a health professional to be released from self-isolation, or
    • have household members who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19 and the Ministry of Health recommends the employee also self-isolates to reduce the risk to them.

    If you've just hired an employee who hasn't started work yet, and they meet this criteria, you can apply for them. You need to make sure you meet the other criteria on this page.

    Generally, under Alert Levels 3 and 4 people who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19 are recommended to stay at home.

    Employees who are not covered

    The Leave Support Scheme cannot be paid for employees who:

    • are sick with COVID-19 'like' symptoms, and Ministry of Health guidelines require them to self-isolate until they have recovered
    • cannot work because they have care of dependents and they are unable to access care for those dependents
    • are unable to work as they have a reasonable belief that continued work during COVID-19 is harmful to their physical or mental health
    • are unable to work for any other reason, for example, bereavement
    • you are already receiving COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Extension or Resurgence Wage Subsidy payments for.

    The Leave Support Scheme cannot be paid for these employees because their leave is either covered by other leave types (eg. sick or bereavement leave), or should be discussed as part of their general employment conditions.

  • You must have had a conversation with your employee

    You must:

    • discuss an application with your employees before making it
    • get their consent to the relevant points outlined in the declaration and
    • agree that they fall into one of the eligible groups.

    You should have a conversation about how best to support your employee at this time. For example they may choose to use existing sick or annual leave and you could use the subsidy to support paying that. If full paid leave options aren't available, the subsidy could be used to top up what is available.

    We won't be verifying any health-related information. When you apply, you'll need to confirm that you've read, understood and agree to a declaration. That includes declaring you've confirmed with your employee that they meet the Ministry of Health guidelines.

  • If you applied before 1pm on 21 August 2020

    If you applied for Leave Support Scheme before 1pm on 21 August 2020, your business needs to have been financially impacted to be eligible.

    Your business must have either:

    • experienced a minimum 30 per cent decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month when compared to the same month last year, or a reasonably equivalent month for a business operating less than a year, and that revenue loss is attributable to the COVID-19 outbreak; or
    • had your ability to support your employee due to the COVID-19 public health restrictions negatively impacted.

    30% decline in revenue

    This means your business has experienced a 30% decline in:

    • actual revenue, or
    • predicted revenue (e.g. for businesses who have seen a reduction in bookings such as accommodation providers), and
    • that decline is related to COVID-19.

    If you're a pre-revenue research and development start-up company, 30% revenue loss includes a drop of 30% in projected capital income.

    Your business must experience this decline between January 2020 and 9 June 2020.

    Definition of revenue

    Revenue means the total amount of money a business has earned from its normal business activities, before expenses are deducted.

    Determining a decline in revenue

    To determine a decline in revenue, the business must compare one month's revenue (or 30 days) against the same month (or 30 days) the previous year (e.g. February 2020 compared with February 2019).

    The revenue in the affected period must be at least 30% less than it was in the period it was compared against.

    Businesses operating for less than a year or have high growth

    New businesses which have been operating less than a year, or high growth businesses (e.g. that have had a significant increase in revenue), can apply for the Leave Support Scheme.

    To determine whether these businesses meet the 30% decline in revenue assessment, they must compare their revenue against a previous month, or 30 days, that gives the best estimation of the revenue decline related to COVID-19.

    For example, 30% loss of revenue attributable to COVID-19 comparing January 2020 to March 2020.