Eligibility criteria for Covid-19 leave scheme expanded to provide further support for workers

The eligibility criteria for the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme has been expanded to provide further support for workers needing to self-isolate but unable to work from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The expanded scheme will cover people who have Covid-19 like symptoms and meet the Ministry of Health’s criteria, and need to self-isolate while awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test; people who are directed to self-isolate by a Medical Officer of Health or their delegate or on advice of their health practitioner, even if they do not have symptoms or have returned a negative test.

It will also include people who have Covid-19 like symptoms working in health, disability and aged care sectors who should get tested and remain at home while waiting for their results; and the parent or caregiver of a dependent who is directed to self-isolate and needs support to do so safely.

The news was announced by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Andrew Little and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni today in a joint statement.

"The Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme has been effective in supporting workers to self-isolate and break the chain of transmission for the virus. We have continued to review the scheme, to make sure that it is providing support where needed," Little said.

"We are now making improvements to the scheme, to cover those who have been told or recommended to self-isolate and can’t work from home. We want them to do the right thing, get a Covid-19 test and stay away from work. The period of subsidy will also be matched to the general two week self-isolation requirement.

"We expect the scheme will be needed for some time yet and for this reason further changes are being considered as we seek to refine the scheme to ensure it provides the best possible support."

More information on the expanded eligibility criteria, and who can access the Leave Support Scheme, is available on the Work and Income website.

Payments for the scheme will now cover a two-week period - the amount of time most people are required to self-isolate for. If a longer period of self-isolation is required, employers can apply for a further two-week payment.

The weekly rates of the scheme will remain at $585.80 for full-time workers and $350 for part-time workers. Other existing features of the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme remain the same.

"One of our lines of defence is to self-isolate and test, and break the chain of transmission. We know many workers may feel pressure to continue working, even if symptomatic. Expanding the eligibility criteria means these workers will be able to continue to receive an income and maintain their employment connections," Sepuloni said.

The changes will come into effect from Monday and will continue to be administered by the Ministry of Social Development. Applications made up until the changes come into effect will continue to be processed and approved.

“Employees and employers should continue to work together to identify if employees are eligible for the support, and agree what their leave and pay arrangements will be during the self-isolation period," Sepuloni said.