YOUR RIGHTS – COVID-19 LEAVE PAYMENTS DISRUPTIONS AND DECLARATIONS
If you have been unable to work because you are following Ministry of Health guidelines to keep clients, your families and yourself safe, you will have just been notified by IDEA Services that from the 23 of April you will no longer continue to be paid your full wage.
IDEA have done this despite their commitment to you to provide you guaranteed hours and their commitment to the government to make best endeavour to pay at least 80% of your wage. Instead, they are dropping your wage to the amounts paid for by the government subsidy.
To add to this, you are now being asked by IDEA to complete a declaration/application for special leave including providing medical information on yourself or your vulnerable family members.
Below are some frequently asked questions.
Does the government subsidy mean IDEA doesn’t have to pay your wages?
- No, the government subsidies for business in no way means the employer does not continue to have separate obligations to employees under employment law and their employment agreement.
- Employment laws and regulations (subject to one small exception) have not changed due to COVID-19. These laws and obligations continue to apply.
- This also means the employer cannot change or reduce rates of pay, hours of work, or other terms of employment without discussion and agreement with employees, regardless of whether the employer seeks the wage subsidy.
- Employers accessing wage subsidies does not mean they do not have to continue to meet their legal and contractual obligations to workers and the union.
What are your rights in the view of E tū?
- IDEA cannot reduce your guaranteed hours without your agreement or following a proper process which is covered in clause 16 of your collective agreement.
- If you are available and willing to work your guaranteed hours, then they must be provided and paid. If IDEA can’t provide you a safe work environment and you are at home following government pandemic rules than you should be paid your normal wage.
- You do not have to agree to be paid leave and can’t be forced to use annual leave.
- You should not be forced back to work through financial hardship and IDEA should be paying you special leave.
- You do not need to provide your or your family members’ medical information on a WINZ declaration. You may be required to discuss your vulnerability to a professional to undertake a risk assessment to determine whether its safe to work.
What is the union’s advice?
- Do not agree to be paid less than your normal earnings.
- Keep a record of what you lose.
- You can use annual leave to top up this payment if you need the money, but write on the form that you feel forced to use leave to be able to survive and it should be reimbursed later.
- Tick the box on the declaration applicable to your circumstances but you do not need to fill in the text box with detailed medical information, especially if you have been deemed to be at risk by your GP.
- Organise so your voice is heard loud and clear.
Does IDEA have a moral obligation to pay as well as a legal one?
So far IDEA have continued to pay you at 100% of your wage which is great. They have done this knowing that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has said they will cover this cost to enable you to remain employed and your position to be back filled with other staff.
The MoH is doing a template for health employers to claim back the money for the back filling of staff now. The MoH expect more people to return to work at Level 3, however not everyone will be safe to return and E tū expects IDEA will continue to be able to apply for the top up for back filling staff meaning they would not be out of pocket.
So why cut your pay now?
Ralph Jones stated that this was because IHC/IDEA Services had not been able to secure a guarantee from MoH that the COVID-19 wages costs would be guaranteed. Mr Jones also stated that the MoH had advised IHC/IDEA Services apply for the COVID-19 leave subsidy.
Here is E tū’s understanding of the facts:
- IHC/IDEA Services has incurred significant wages costs covering the wages of those workers who were not permitted to attend the workplace for COVID-19 related reasons.
- IHC/IDEA Services could have applied for the various versions of the COVID-19 leave subsidies from 18 March 2020.
- On 14 April the MoH advised all Disability Sector employers that if there is any risk of them not being able to keep going through the COVID crisis and beyond then they only have to ask for assistance and the MoH will be there to provide that assistance.
- On Monday 20 April the MoH advised disability sector employers/providers that a template document was being prepared for them to complete to claim the COVID-19 back filling wages costs and other COVID-19 related costs, and that the funding would be available.
- What is required is that IHC complete a declaration which names you and confirms that you have been advised that you are being named in their application for a wages subsidy for you. The IHC Group is also required to declare to MSD that they are using their “best endeavours” to pay you at least 80% of your wages. The advice to all employers who apply for this funding is that they are NOT relieved of their obligations to pay you your wages and they are not permitted to compel you to use other leave balances.
- We have raised our concerns with IDEA and will continue to insist that you are all paid 100% of your wages without having to use other leave balances.
- E tū acknowledges that the MoH has been frustratingly slow to address the additional costs that essential service employers have had to face in this crisis. E tū has kept this item on the MoH agenda and will stand with the disability sector employers to keep this issue at the forefront of discussions with the MoH and government.
In the meantime we expect IDEA to keep paying you and you should too!
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE TO WAGE REDUCTIONS OR TO USE YOUR LEAVE BALANCES. E TŪ IS HERE TO SUPPORT YOU – CONTACT US FOR ASSISTANCE IF YOU NEED TO. 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) or firstname.lastname@example.org