he pānui kōhungahunga

He Pānui Kōhungahunga
COVID-19 update – 7 December 2021

07 December 2021
he pānui kōhungahunga

He Pānui Kōhungahunga

COVID-19 update – 7 December 2021

Kia ora koutou,

Year end is always hectic and I know this year even more so, I am sure you are looking forward to some well-earned respite.

This will include a break from these pānui – we’ll send our final bulletins for 2021 on Thursday 9 December and Tuesday 14 December. 

In this bulletin we’re providing guidance on changes to the Employment Relations Act, updates to the traffic light guidance (thanks for your feedback) and a reminder about recording absences over the Christmas holiday period. 

Ngā mihi,

Travel across the Auckland boundary for children and staff

The Director-General of Health has agreed to grant an exemption to allow travel across the Auckland boundary for:

  • children enrolled to attend a licensed early childhood service, for the purpose of enabling them to attend that licensed early childhood service
  • parents or caregivers of children who are enrolled to attend a licensed early childhood service and need to cross the boundary solely for the purpose of delivering or retrieving the child
  • workers at a licensed early childhood service who need to cross the boundary to carry out work at or for a licensed early childhood service.

There are conditions attached to this exemption, including that any workers must carry evidence of having a COVID-19 test administered within seven days of travel.

The details will be set out in a Gazette notice and will come into force on the date specified in that notice. We expect the notice to be published in the next day or two and will confirm in Thursday’s bulletin.

This exemption will enable teachers and children to return to their early childhood services prior to the Auckland boundary opening up more generally on 15 December.

Changes to the Employment Relations Act

There have been recent changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 that you need to be aware of. These changes are set out below.

Previously, we have encouraged you to support staff to get vaccinated by providing paid time where they were unable to be vaccinated outside of their normal hours of work.

Changes to the Employment Relations Act now mean that an employee is entitled to reasonable paid time off during their normal working hours to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Before taking paid time off, the employee must notify you of the date and time they intend to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and the amount of time they expect to take as paid time off (including any travel time).

You can refuse the request if providing the paid time off would unreasonably disrupt the service’s work or the performance of the employee’s duties. 

Another change is that there is now a minimum amount of paid notice that employers are required to give where an employee is dismissed due to not meeting vaccination requirements (whether imposed by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 or by the employer following a risk assessment).

If an employee is not vaccinated as required by the Order, you may terminate the employment agreement by giving the greater of four weeks paid written notice or the paid notice period in the employment agreement (following a fair and reasonable employment process). This applies to those who receive notice on or after 26 November, when the change came into effect. 

Notice of termination of employment will be cancelled if, before the end of the notice period, the employee becomes vaccinated, unless cancelling the notice would unreasonably disrupt the service. 

Before giving notice of termination of employment, you must ensure that a full employment and consultation process has taken place including exhausting all other reasonable alternatives.

Updated: Traffic light guidance

We regularly review and update our traffic light guidance to clarify and improve the content based on your feedback. You can access the most up-to-date information on our webpage.

COVID-19 Protection Framework for early learning services – Ministry of Education

This includes downloadable guidance summaries and full guidance documents for licensed early learning services and playgroups on our webpage under resources.

COVID-10 Protection Framework Resources – Ministry of Education

Workforce wellbeing EAP services extended

Centrally funded wellbeing support services will continue to be available to the education workforce next year. 

All teachers, regular relievers and support staff in early learning services are eligible to access these services. 

Confidential one-on-one counselling sessions are available. These services are available face-to-face, online or on the phone. 

There will be no charge for these services. They are not intended to replace existing services you already offer staff, but rather to supplement any existing local wellbeing and counselling services for a specific period of time. 

You’ll find further information about these EAP services on our website:  

COVID-19 Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – Ministry of Education

If you have any questions call 0800 327 669 or visit the EAP website:

EAP Services Limited

Vaccine mandate: Fake diplomatic ID cards

We’ve been advised that there are individuals claiming diplomatic immunity exemption from vaccination requirements and using fake ID cards as evidence.

The fake diplomatic ID cards are being sold by ‘Te-Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa Embassy’ and ‘Avoid Vaccines | Ranger Security’ organisations.

The individuals holding these ID cards do not hold diplomatic immunity in New Zealand and you should not accept these ID cards from people seeking exemption from the vaccine mandate.

The ID card presented is not a diplomatic ID card provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and does not entitle the holder to any immunity under the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1968.

It’s the expectation that any spouse or dependent family member of an accredited diplomat who has been approved to work in New Zealand comply with the requirements of their profession – including any vaccination requirements.

MFAT are maintaining a log of all claims using these fake IDs which may be of assistance to New Zealand Police. Forward any examples of claims to protocol@mfat.govt.nz.

Recording absences over the holiday period

Services are reminded to check the absence rules on our website for the upcoming holiday period and to ensure that absences are accurately recorded.

ECE Funding Handbook 6-4 Absence rules – Ministry of Education

When a service is open during the holiday period and parents have confirmed that their child(ren) will attend but no children attend the service that day (and teachers are present), you are entitled to funding and should use the SO code.

Remember that evidence of booked enrolments must be maintained for auditing purposes. 

‘Holiday’ refers to a day that an early learning service would not normally operate but has agreed with parents to open. For example, on a statutory holiday or during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. This code cannot be used on a normal operating day. 

You can only claim funded child hours for the hours your staff are present for that day. For example, if the teacher starts at 9am and closes the service at 12pm (instead of 3pm), you can only claim funded child hours for the half day. 

Recently updated advice for early learning services

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