Essential businesses

Essential businesses, and those that support them, will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand.

This means food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support will continue to be available.

What are essential businesses?

These entities will continue working but will put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.

If you have any queries about what an essential service is and if it applies to your business sector, you can get in touch with general enquiries at 0800 22 66 57 or email essential@mbie.govt.nz for advice regarding your specific business.

More specific information for each sector will be published shortly.

Primary Industries Businesses Register for Safe Practice

If you provide an essential service within the primary industries, including critical support goods and services, you are required to register with the Ministry for Primary Industries and answer 11 questions about how you intend to stop any spread of COVID-19.

Businesses with 5 or fewer people (including the owner) working at each business site that can achieve physical distancing are exempt.

Primary sector businesses can contact MPI for more information at 0800 00 83 33 or info@mpi.govt.nz or visit the MPI website(external link).

Non-essential businesses

Non-essential businesses must now close, unless able to operate from home.

All bars, restaurants, cafes including takeaway services, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.

Physical distancing means staff and the public stay 2 metres apart, and hand hygiene and cleaning must be maintained. Keeping full details of guests, and keeping people away if they are sick is required.

Essential businesses and those that support them will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand. This means food, healthcare, energy, internet, waste collection and financial support will always be available. They must have health measures and contact tracing in place.

We need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19.

Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.

Employers supporting staff

Employers should support staff by ensuring they follow public health advice in the workplace. 

Employers should also: 

  • keep in regular contact, and deal in good faith, with those who are unwell or self-isolating 
  • adopt flexible approaches to paid leave and working from home
  • fulfil all their obligations under the Health Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). 

Further guidance for employers and employees(external link) 

Wage subsidy scheme

New Zealand employers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply. This includes:

  • registered charities
  • NGOs
  • the self-employed and sole traders
  • contractors
  • registered charities
  • incorporated societies, and
  • post-settlement governance entities.

Employers, contractors, sole traders and the self-employed, may qualify to get the COVID-19 wage subsidy.

To qualify:

  • the business is registered and operating in New Zealand
  • employees are legally working in New Zealand
  • the business has experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19. There are special rules for new businesses and high-growth firms
  • the business has taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • the business must retain covered employees in employment for the period of the subsidy.

The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of:

  • $585.80 for people working 20 hours or more per week
  • $350.00 for people working less than 20 hours per week.

Employers must make best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their normal income. Where that is not possible – in particular where a business has no activity whatsoever due to the shutdown and workers are not working any hours – employers must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker. If a person’s income is normally less than the subsidy, they can be paid that normal salary.

The subsidy is paid as a lump sum to the employer to pass on to employees and covers 12 weeks per employee.

The wage subsidy is a Government payment to help employers pay wages. It does not change any other employment law obligations, meaning employees must be paid appropriately under their employment agreements for the hours they work during the lockdown.

Read more information, including how to apply, on Work and Income(external link)

Updates to the wage subsidy scheme

24 March 2020: the Government announced the removal of the $150,000 cap(external link)

27 March 2020: Government modified scheme to better support workers not able to work during Level 4(external link)

Leave Payment

From 3pm on 27 March 2020, the COVID-19 Leave Payment is no longer available for employers. Applications already submitted will continue to be processed and paid.

The Government is working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

Business Finance Guarantee Scheme

The Government has launched a Business Finance Guarantee Scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, to protect jobs and support the economy. The Crown in partnership with participating approved banks will support targeted new loans (including increases to existing limits) to eligible businesses, as a response to difficulties caused by COVID-19.

Under the scheme, businesses with annual revenue between $250,000 and $80 million can apply to their banks for loans up to $500,000, for up to 3 years. The scheme will offer a total of $6.25 billion in loans to New Zealand businesses.

The Government is guaranteeing 80% of the risk, while the banks are covering the remaining 20%. A normal lending process will be followed by the banks, which will make the lending decisions. Further details can be found on the banks’ websites. 

Announcement of the opening of the scheme(external link)

Business.govt.nz information about the Business Finance Guarantee Scheme(external link)

Redundancy support

If you’ve lost your job or are a business faced with laying off your employees, there may be support options available to you.

There is also information for employers who are considering redundancies.

Read details on the Work and Income website(external link)

Additional resources

Business information relating to COVID-19, how it may affect your business and how you can stay up to date on the business.govt.nz website(external link)

Information about workplace responses to COVID-19 at the employment.govt.nz website(external link)

Information update about COVID-19 at the employment.govt.nz website(external link)

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