MoE Update – 20 August 2021 part 2

Information supplied from Ministry of Education on 20 August 2021.  

COVID-19 update

Message from the Secretary for Education

Kia ora āno,

Three COVID days always seem like six ordinary days!

As you’ll be aware from this afternoon’s announcement, New Zealand will stay in Alert Level 4 until 11.59pm on Tuesday August 24, with further decisions to be made on Monday.  

I know that many of you will be busy over the weekend working on further supporting your ākonga, whānau and staff.  Thank you for that. 


In today’s bulletin:

  • What to do if your centre has a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Supporting your staff
  • Readying for Alert Level 3
  • MSD childcare subsidy payments
  • Keep up the great work

What to do if your service has a confirmed case of COVID-19

In the event your early learning service has a confirmed case of COVID-19, we’ll work closely with you. Our regional staff work with local health authorities to quickly provide support to assist you to communicate with and support your parent community and your staff.
To make this process easy, please ensure that your contact information is up to date for ākonga, whānau and staff.
Even if the country moves alert levels, all ākonga, whānau and staff at affected services will need to complete their full 14-day isolation, even if they have been vaccinated.

Please know that our local office teams are available for general support at all times – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Local Ministry offices

Supporting your staff 

Thank you for showing leadership and support for your staff during this Alert Level 4 period.
Ministry of Education operational funding will continue to be paid to early learning services as usual, even though services are closed and there are no children attending.  Your operational funding will not be reduced at this time. 
In addition, any service where revenue has fallen may be able to access the COVID-19 wage subsidy managed through the Ministry of Social Development. 
The COVID-19 wage subsidy will pay eligible services a flat rate of $600 per week for every full time employee, and $359 per week for every part time worker (before tax), paid upfront in one lump sum to cover two weeks.
Early learning services that receive this COVID-19 wage subsidy must do their absolute best to pay their staff – hopefully at 100%, but certainly at least 80%. If for some reason the employer can’t pay at least 80%, then they have to pay the employee at least the full value of the wage subsidy – unless that’s more than what the employee would normally get, in which case they should pay the employee what they normally earn. 
Employers can expect their employees to continue working from home if and as required under these conditions (for example, sending helpful info and tips to support families at home with their child’s individual needs, or planning and working on the curriculum to make it relevant to children’s current interests). 
If you have questions about your eligibility, please see Work and Income’s COVID-19 wage subsidy information pages. Please be patient if you call them, as they have a high volume of calls at this time.
The COVID-19 wage subsidy is a Government payment to help employers pay wages. It does not change any other employment law obligations.

Note that a service that attests to paying their teachers at or above the minimum salary rate set out on, must continue to pay at least at this level in order to remain eligible for higher rates of funding.
In general, your staff should be able to decide when to take their annual holidays. If you and your staff can’t agree when annual holidays are to be taken, then you can require staff to take annual holidays, but only if you give staff at least 14 days’ notice. An employer cannot direct staff to take leave in advance (that is, before they become entitled to the holidays after their annual holiday anniversary). 

If you have a query regarding an employment/payroll situation, please contact the Labour Inspectorate through the Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment website. Please take into consideration that it is a small team dealing with a lot of queries, and that they will get back to you as soon as they can. 

Labour Inspectorate – Employment New Zealand website

Health and Safety 
You will already have started to think about how your service can safely operate under Alert Level 3 within the public health measures allowing for this.  
WorkSafe has developed guidance and a template that you could use to develop your plan. You do not need to use the template, but it is a useful tool for things you should consider and include in your plan: 

You should involve your staff in the development of the plan to help assess risks and identify solutions and all staff should be familiar with the plan.

Readying for Alert Level 3

While we all remain in Alert Level 4, we’ve received a few enquiries seeking guidance about Alert Level 3 requirements. 
Currently the Alert Level 3 public health measures we are already very familiar with remain the same. 

As we’ve seen, at Alert Level 3 very few children return to attend early learning services and kōhanga reo. For those early learning services that open in Alert Level 3, physical distancing is not required within early learning bubbles, however, physical distancing of 2 metres must be observed between the adults working in different early learning bubbles within each service.

Good hygiene practices are very important within bubbles including washing hands, cleaning high-touch surfaces, staying away if sick, and getting tested. 

Our guidance for Alert Levels 1-4 is available on our website.

Health and safety in licensed early learning services and kōhanga reo for COVID-19 [PDF, 792KB]
It’s also important to remember that a shift down to Alert Level 3 only happens when Public Health experts and Government are confident the level of risk has reduced for the community, and that the required health measures will help to prevent further spread of the virus. 
Should any of the existing requirements change, we’ll provide you with updated advice as soon as possible. Our guidance will be based on advice from Public Health and as noted in any future Public Health Orders.
As we have previously advised, there is no requirement for any New Zealander to have the COVID-19 vaccine. Staff are therefore not required to be vaccinated and an employer cannot compel them to do so. 
However, as we’ve seen, the vast majority of the country are keen to get vaccinated as soon as they can. We hope you’re encouraging everyone to support their health and the health of their whānau and community.

MSD childcare subsidy payments 

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) can continue to pay the MSD childcare subsidy and OSCAR subsidy where centres are closed or children are absent due to the COVID-19 alert system.

Childcare subsidy – Work and Income Subsidy website

People getting a subsidy must remain eligible for MSD childcare assistance in order for these payments to continue.

Please see the MSD website for further details.

COVID-19 Childcare Centre absences and closures – Work and Income website

Keep up the great work

For our whānau in the North Island, we encourage you to regularly check the locations of interest. If you’ve visited one of these locations during the relevant time, please get a test immediately, self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. 

COVID-19: Contact tracing locations of interest – Ministry of Health website

If you were not at the location of interest at the relevant time, you do not need to be tested unless you are symptomatic.

  • You’re doing a great job of this already, but we encourage you to keep following public health guidelines.
  • As always, our regional teams are here to support you. Please get in contact with them if you have any questions.

    Local Ministry offices

Koia kei a koe – you’ve got this.