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APEX Update 1 April 2020

Scrubs

First we need to emphasize that scrubs are not PPE, however we have raised the option of getting into scrubs when attending work and then leaving them behind when we leave to be laundered by the DHB.  This stops workers going out into the community and going home in their own clothes.
 
There is an issue in some DHBs about laundering capacity as well as the number of scrubs actually available.  We have asked for a breakdown of which DHBs and which issue, until we get that, if you do have scrubs available, be aware of the above.
 
Hard Copies of Collective Agreements

Sorry, but until the COVID-19 situation is over, we won’t be able to get hard copies of your new collective agreements out to you.  We will have them on the website however if you need them.
 
Whilst on the topic, well done to our DHB employed laboratory workers who now have an offer from the DHBs, which is going out to ratification shortly.  Good work guys.
 
Local Engagement

In addition to the national Union-DHB engagement group which meets daily, DHBs are increasingly setting up local engagement meetings.  To keep some consistency, we have allocated an advocate to each group that has been established so far.
 
They will be in touch with any relevant matters raised and provide an update to members after each meeting.
 
Pay During COVID-19

A lot of things are changing in DHB Land: rosters, people at home in reserve, redeployment…  We have developed some guidance as to your rights, however the DHBs have also written a high-level principles document they have just given us today and asked us to review prior to advising members further.
 
We will let you know where we get with that. In the interim, stay in touch with your delegate who is in touch with their advocate.
 
For Private Sector Members re. Pay, Leave and Rights…

Private sector health employees are the most vulnerable during this lockdown. While private healthcare is still deemed essential and operating, it is currently at operating at a reduced capacity and employers are getting nervous that once lucrative profit margins are evaporating. The DHBs are though looking at contracting out more work to private during Covid, so we can expect that things could pick up for some private employers in the coming weeks.
 
The Wage Subsidy Scheme

Most private sector health employers in have availed of the governments Wage Subsidy ($585 per employee for full time employees for a 12-week period) in which they must demonstrate best endeavors to pay you at least 80% if your salary. There are obligations for employers for receiving this subsidy and if they lie on the declaration, they can be required to pay it back to the government.
 
So, does this mean my employer doesn’t have to pay me my full wages (100%)?

No, it doesn’t, we are of the view that your employer still must pay you 100% of your, salary or wages for contracted hours of work.  While there are obligations under the Wage Subsidy Scheme there are also obligations under the Employment Relations Act and employment agreements (individual or collective) that an employer is required to comply with. Employment legislation has not changed with Covid-19.
 
Even if you are currently working reduced hours, at your employers directive, if your employment agreement /cover letter states you have x number of hours/days of work, or a salary, then that is what your employer is required to pay you. Wages are also protected under the Wages Protection Act.
 
They can only pay you less for less hours of work, if you agree to it. We advise that no one should willingly agree to reduced hours for reduced pay and to contact us for advice.
 
Currently, many employers that have had to shut down, including even Restaurant Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s) are paying their employees, their full 100% wages. So, if they can do it, then private health certainly can.
 
Hasn’t the government said that an employer needs to only pass on the government wage subsidy of 585 per week?

Yes, Grant Robinson recently clarified this, but the inference was if in a circumstance that a company was no longer financially viable- i.e. they are going under/insolvent. This does not apply to companies that are still essential and still have income streams. Even if times are tough, they need to everything in their capacity to still pay you 100% of your wages. 
 
Can my employer just force me to take my annual leave with giving 2 weeks’ notice?

No, they can’t. Leave needs to be taken by agreement between an employer and employee. So, this means your employer needs need to sit down and try to reach agreement on when to take your leave. Only after this process has been exhausted can an employer give 14 days’ notice of a requirement to take leave. If your leave has leave pre-approved then they need to honor this, and not change it now.
 
 If you have any questions, please email luke@apex.org.nz
 
For those impacted by the wage subsidy, this is a good resource.

Kia Kaha 
APEX

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