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All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1. Restrictions are in place for businesses to keep workers and customers safe.

For more information on safely operating visit Workplace operations at COVID-19 alert levels

Travelling in a bubble

The travel bubbles with Australia and the Cook Islands have opened up quarantine-free travel, but it doesn’t come without risk. See what you and your employees need to consider when travelling in a bubble.

Sending employees to Australia or the Cook Islands on business

If you send an employee to Australia or the Cook Islands for work purposes, you’ll be responsible for their health and safety, as well as any costs associated with the trip. This includes costs caused by the trip becoming longer than expected because of COVID-19.

Make sure your employee is comfortable with the idea of travelling and doesn’t feel pressured to go. If possible, provide them with enough personal protective equipment (PPE), like face masks, to last the duration of their trip.

When your employees are on a business trip, you have an obligation to pay:

  • over and above any expenses incurred for business–related purposes, like meals and accommodation, you’ll have to cover any costs caused by the trip becoming longer than expected because of COVID-19
  • costs if they have to go into managed isolation due to a disruption in the bubble
  • their normal pay as per their employment agreement if they become stuck overseas during a business trip and can’t work remotely
  • other types of leave if they get COVID-19 during the business trip and run out of sick leave.

Employees heading to Australia or the Cook Islands on holiday

If an employee wants to take annual leave that they’re entitled to, you can’t unreasonably refuse. However, you should let them know that while they’re on annual leave, it’s their responsibility to stay safe. It is good to remind them that they’ll have to cover the cost should they need to go into managed isolation.

Annual leave(external link) – Employment New Zealand

Have a plan

Work with your employees to come up with a plan about how to deal with things if there’s a COVID-19 resurgence and they:

  • have to stay in Australia or the Cook Islands for longer than expected, and/or
  • have to enter managed isolation. 

Consider things like:

  • Can they work remotely? If so, consider what they need to do their job, e.g. a laptop or work phone, and ask them to take that equipment with them.
  • How much sick leave do they have? If they get COVID-19, would they have enough sick leave to cover an extended time off work? What other types of leave might be available if they get COVID-19 and run out of sick leave while they’re away?
  • If they can’t work remotely, do they have enough annual leave to cover an extended stay in Australia or the Cook Islands if there’s a disruption to the travel bubble? Or if they have to go into managed isolation?  If not, what other types of leave (including unpaid leave) might be available?
  • How long could you hold their job open for them if they’re stuck in Australia or the Cook Islands and unable to work remotely?

Quarantine-free travel with Australia(external link) – Unite Against COVID-19

Quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands(external link) – Unite Against COVID-19

Leave and pay entitlements during COVID-19(external link) – Employment New Zealand

If an employee is unable to return from holiday after their agreed annual leave, you can’t automatically dismiss them.

If an employee is unable to return from holiday after their agreed annual leave, you can’t automatically dismiss them.

You have to act in good faith and follow a fair and proper process.

Good faith(external link) – Employment New Zealand

Terminating employment agreements during COVID-19(external link) – Employment New Zealand

Bubble travel for visa holders

If a temporary visa holder travels to Australia or the Cook Islands, for work or pleasure, they need to make sure they have enough time on their visa to cover an extended stay.

They also need to be aware that if quarantine-free travel is suspended and border restrictions are put in place, they may need to apply for an exception to return to New Zealand.

More than 400,000 passports belonging to New Zealanders have expired since our borders closed in 2020.

If you or an employee is planning to travel overseas check if you need to renew your passport well before you travel.

Apply for a passport(external link) - Passports New Zealand

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