COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment

The Ministry of Social Development (“MSD”) has recently announced that a Short-Term Absence Payment (“STAP Payment”) is now available for businesses (including self-employed people) to assist with paying workers who are required to stay at home while awaiting COVID-19 test results, and cannot work from home during this time. 
 
What are the criteria to be able to receive a STAP Payment?
 
The criteria for businesses to be able to apply on behalf of a worker, or a self-employed person (“eligible worker”), are as follows:
  • the eligible worker must be a person that:
    • needs to stay at home while waiting for their COVID-19 test results, in accordance with public health guidance;
    • is a parent or caregiver of a dependent who is staying home while waiting for their COVID-19 test results, in accordance with public health guidance, and the dependent needs support to do so safely; or
    • is a household member or secondary contact (as described in public health guidance) of someone who is a close contact of a person with COVID-19, and the worker has been advised to stay at home while waiting for the close contact’s test results;
  • the eligible worker must be unable to work from home whilst waiting for the relevant COVID-19 test result;
  • the eligible worker (or dependent/household member/secondary contact) must have taken a COVID-19 test on or after 9 February 2021.  The STAP Payment must also be applied for within eight weeks of the relevant test being conducted;
  • the eligible worker must be unable to work from home while awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test;
  • the eligible worker must not have received a previous STAP Payment during the 30 days prior to the date of your business’ application (unless a doctor or health official tells the worker to get another test); and
Businesses will not have to show a loss in revenue to apply for the payment for these eligible workers.
 
Who cannot receive the STAP payment?
 
The STAP Payment cannot be used for workers who:
  • are eligible to receive the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme as at the date of the relevant COVID-19 test;
  • undertake routine testing in their workplace (e.g. border workers), unless they are symptomatic;
  • are non-symptomatic and are participating in surveillance testing, or have not been notified through contact tracing to stay home in accordance with public health guidance;
  • are returning international air crew;
  • are currently overseas;
  • are staying in managed isolation facilities; or
  • are an employee of a State Sector organisation or Stated Owned Enterprise (unless that organisation has been granted an exception by the Minister of Finance in relation to a COVID-19 Wage Subsidy or the Leave Support Scheme).
How much will my business receive if my application is successful? 
 
Businesses/self-employed individuals whose applications for the STAP Payment are accepted, will receive a one-off payment of $350 for each eligible worker in any 30-day period (unless the eligible worker is advised by a health official or doctor to get another test). 
 
How much do I pay my employee?
 
Where an employee is entitled, pursuant to their employment agreement or statutory obligations, to be paid while they are waiting for the relevant COVID-19 test result (e.g. paid sick leave entitlements), the subsidy must be used to pay the employee’s ordinary wages or salary.
 
Where an employee is not entitled, pursuant to their employment agreement or statutory obligations, to be paid while they are waiting for the relevant COVID-19 test result (e.g. where the employee has exhausted their paid sick leave entitlements), your business must:
  • use the STAP payment to pay the employee their ordinary wages or salary while they are waiting for the relevant test result, as if they were entitled to be paid pursuant to their employment agreement or statutory obligations; or
  • pay at least the full amount of the subsidy to the employee while they are waiting for the relevant COVID-19 test result.
Where the employee’s ordinary wages or salary are below the STAP payment amount, you only need to pay the employee their ordinary wages or salary. 
 
If there is any amount of the STAP payment left over (i.e. the employee’s ordinary wages or salary is less than $350), this must be used to pay the ordinary wages or salary of other employees.
 
What happens if my employee tests positive for COVID-19?
 
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, your business can apply for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme to help pay their wages.  Details on the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme can be found here.
 
The STAP Payment is a valuable health and safety tool that will play an important part in supporting businesses when employees need to take time off work while awaiting COVID-19 test results.
 
If you have any questions about the STAP Payment, please feel free to contact us on 0800 339 002.  
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