The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Prepare your business for new COVID variants

With Omicron now a reality in New Zealand, here is how how to prepare your business for the current, and any future variants of COVID-19, that may affect your business.

With the latest variant of COVID-19, Omicron, being the most infectious so far, businesses globally have been hit with the knock-on effects of staff being sick or needing to self-isolate, and supply chain issues.

With the highest level of the New Zealand COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system) stating that hospitality businesses will remain open with My Vaccine Pass and restrictions, it’s important to create a plan to managing the impact of COVID-19 cases at your on- or off-premise business.

According to, a clear plan can potentially help lessen the impact as you focus on ultimately operating in a safe way. Here are the steps the government recommends…

Reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections at your business by…

Understanding the COVID-19 Protection Framework and how it affects your business.

Follow all the rules, including physical distancing, face coverings, displaying NZ COVID Tracer posters and encouraging people to scan or sign in, and checking and verifying My Vaccine Passes, where required.

Supporting your employees to get vaccinated, including booster shots.

Employment New Zealand has guidance on talking to employees about vaccination. Use the vaccination assessment tool to determine whether work at your business should be done by vaccinated people. Note: workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate (including food and drink services) are mandated.

Encouraging healthy habits in your workplace.

Including reviewing and updating hygiene, cleaning and ventilation practices, and ensure they are being followed. Advice around good ventilation practices in relation to COVID-19 can be found on the Ministry of Health’s website at

Ensuring staff stay at home if they are sick.

Ask them to call the Healthline number 0800 358 5453 for advice and to arrange to get tested. The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment provides financial support for businesses whose staff can’t work from home while waiting for a test result. Ensure you and other leaders in your business follow good hygiene practices and stay at home when you’re sick too.

Have a plan for COVID-19 cases affecting your business…

  • Have staff work from home where appropriate – and continue to test systems so working from home is as seamless as possible.
  • Consider dual rosters to limit the number of staff interacting during each shift.
  • Involve your workers in discussions on how roles, responsibilities and ways of working might need to change, drawing on your collective experiences.
  • Think about ways you can operate with fewer staff if need be – such as reduced hours, a reduced service (such as moving to takeaways or click and collect-style sales), or prioritising what work is most important, and what can be delayed.
  • Engage early with temporary workforce providers in case you need to call on them for additional workers.
  • Record important processes and knowledge, so other workers can pick tasks up if someone is unable to work.
  • Review your finances and understand your cashflow. Engage credit providers, such as your bank, early to discuss ways you might manage cashflow if an outbreak affects your business.
  • Understand your responsibilities as an employer, including employment law and health and safety law.
  • Consider other businesses you deal with, and how they might be affected by COVID-19 cases. If your business relies on other businesses’ products or services, consider talking to them about their continuity and contingency plans. How they plan to respond could affect your own plans.

It can be stressful managing the impacts of COVID-19 on your business, make sure you follow public health advice if you, your workers or someone else who visits your premise has COVID-19 and if you need some advice, or simply someone to talk to – help is available.

Helpful resources

COVID-19 Protection Framework

Vaccination mandates

Vaccination assessment tool

Ventilation advice

Financial support

Continuity and contingency planning

Modifying employment agreements

Managing health and safety

Mental health and wellbeing support

Originally published in the February issue of The Shout NZ.

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