Max Whitehead, of specialist employment law
firm Whitehead Group, said companies that had halted operation as a result of the epidemic would still have to pay employees who were ready and willing to work.
“If it was a natural disaster and the employer couldn’t provide work but [the employees] were fit and well and capable of working, then the employer would have to pay their wages,” he told Radio Live.
“If there is the situation where perhaps a restaurant is in fear of upsetting their patrons so they’re shutting their premises, then they would have to pay their employees,” he explained. “Ready, willing and able are the key words of the law.”
However, Whitehead also noted that employers were under no obligation to pay workers who were ill if they had already used all of their allocated sick leave.
“Just talking about the employment relationship between the employer and the employee, if the employee has exhausted all of their sick leave and they can’t attend work well then I’m afraid it’s bad news,” he said. “It means they’re going to be off work with no pay.”
The Auckland-based employment expert said he wasn’t sure if out-of-pocket workers could pursue a claim against the council but said it would be an interesting avenue to follow.
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As the gastro outbreak continues to close schools and business across the Hastings area, one industry lawyer has warned that closed employers may still have to pay certain workers.