COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
This page brings together a number of questions on our members' minds as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a fast-changing situation, and we'll keep this page updated.
We're working through several questions around level 4 and what this means for ECE now and will update you as we go.
If you have a question not answered here, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.What would the next funding period be like? What would it be based on?We're advised by the Ministry of Education that the July pay-out will be based on enrolment figures, not attendance. We have raised questions about coding in SMS systems and issues relevant to RS7 claims and await their response.Even if WINZ payments are made, if we're not charging parents will it end up as a credit for them?There are two issues of concern regarding the Childcare Subsidy decision - firstly, the impact on some centres, especially those community-owned centres in lower-socio-economic communities, will be significantly adverse. To assume those centres are doing nothing for their families during the lockdown is naive. The second issue is the arbitrary manner in which the decision was made, 48 hours after advising us in writing the subsidy would continue. Such callous disregard for the recipients of the subsidy and the childcare services they use calls into question the ability of MSD to make sensible decisions at all.The current situation is that the payments ended on 6 April, and we're urging the MSD to reverse this decision. Is there any guidance on insurance claims, ie how long it’s taking to process or when we should apply for it?We've put together this spreadsheet to help with claims through Crombie Lockwood, plus Rubiix have offered free accountancy advice to those needing itShould we mark our centre attendance as emergency closure under lockdown?This is one of the issues we are awaiting clarity from the Ministry of Education for.What is a reasonable amount to ask for when negotiating a rent holiday? The actual amount is wholly for both parties to negotiate, not one or the otherHow much work could they ask their teachers to do while they were in lockdown? The advice we have received from our partners, Buddle Findlay, is that it is reasonable for an employer to expect their staff, being paid, to do some work from home. The amount is up to the employer to determine, being reasonable about the employee’s situation and environment.What happens with the children of parents working in essential services?
This is the latest from the Ministry of Education on this:
Where possible, essential workers need to make their own arrangements for childcare, due to limited capacity.
Where this is not possible alternative arrangements have been made so essential workers can access childcare and continue to work. Essential workers will need to use their existing networks for in home care, for example a neighbor, relative, friend or current carer/nanny who can come to their house, or provide childcare in their own home. There are Public Health rules that must be observed: • The person caring for the child becomes part of the self-isolating group• This group must remain the same for the whole period• The carer must not care for children from other households (other than their own) over the same period• If a child or carer becomes unwell, they must stay at home The government is funding access to some home-based care services as an alternative. We understand this is a developing situation and will keep you updated.
Will funding for ECE continue during shutdown? Yes. You can read the early detail here, but to quote Education Minister Chris Hipkins: "It's important that the sector has that knowledge that the money will continue to arrive."
Do we keep charging fees for parents through lockdown? We realise that this time is very stressful for centres, their children, parents and staff.We are very much aware that centres have two main sources of income: government subsidies and parent fees (for most), and strongly recommend that all centres apply for the government's wage subsidy as soon as possible.We also recommend, not withstanding the above, that centres, refrain from charging parents fees over the lock down period if at all possible.It is the government's expectation that centres will continue to pay their staff over the lockdown period, that's why the wage subsidy is available. It is also in addition to the normal MoE payment centres receive three times a year, with the next payout due in early July.
Do we continue paying staff through the level 4 lockdown? We recognise the strain the lockdown puts on our members - the government's wage subsidies are designed for employers to keep staff through this period. We recommend applying for all your waged staff as soon as you can if you haven’t already.
To quote the MSD: "...(employers) will make best endeavours to retain the named employees and pay them a minimum of 80% of their normal wages or salary for the duration of the subsidy."
You can read all the Ministry of Social Development's guidance on employer obligations here.
How do I pay staff if my centre is shut down?Wage subsidies are available for all employers significantly impacted by COVID-19 and struggling to retain employees as a result.The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of:
The subsidy is paid as a lump sum. These rates are what the government subsidy pays you. They do not necessarily reflect what you pay your staff, you will have to make up any difference.
To qualify, employers must have suffered, or are projected to suffer, at least a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year for any month between January 2020 and the end of the scheme in June 2020.
You can read all the details on the wage subsidy scheme here.
Can staff use annual or sick leave as well as the wage support scheme?
The wage subsidy is just that. The Employment Relations Act, Holidays Act and other employment legislation still apply. The wage subsidy is paid to you to help your centre retain its staff. They continue to have leave entitlements under their employment agreement.
Do we pay relief teachers through lockdown?Relievers who work for an agency should be in touch with their agencies to explore all options. Relievers who you employ can be included in your wage support subsidy application – but if you do you are obliged to pay your relievers throughout the shutdown. Otherwise, you need to advise relievers you employ, if they are no longer working for you, to apply for unemployment support or apply for the government wage subsides if they operate as sole traders.
Does the wage subsidy include KiwiSaver?The wages subsidy is the total amount you will receive, so includes any Kiwisaver commitments. There has been no suggestion that these commitments are suspended.
The only way you can suspend making a contribution to an employee's Kiwisaver is if the employee elects to go on a Kiwisaver contribution holiday. This includes both the employee's contribution and the employer's contribution.
Do we apply for leave subsidy now we are on lockdown? Leave support is for people self-isolating because they’ve recently returned from overseas, or are a close contact of someone identified with COVID-19. We recommend applying for wage support subsidy instead through the level 4 lockdown instead.
How do I cover wages for staff self-isolating?The COVID-19 leave payment package supports people who are self-isolating - the payments will be:
Employers can apply for the leave on behalf of any employee who is self-isolating or sick, and payments can be backdated to 17 March 2020.
You can find out more on the leave payment support packages here. Will Education Review Office reviews continue? ERO have cancelled all non-essential travel and are taking a flexible approach, including communicating remotely through technology. Any centre concerned about a scheduled review should contact the ERO to discuss. We applaud the ERO for this pragmatic and sensitive step. What should we do with our centre during lockdown? One piece of advice we have received is that COVID-19 only lives on surfaces for 72hrs. Cleaning this week when you are closed possibly exposes you to the virus. If you leave your centre uncleaned for the duration of lockdown, the virus will die on its own, not risking anyone's health. We recommend thinking about doing a good clean before re-opening and not risking further unnecessary transfer right now. What do we advise parents to do during the lockdown period? We will be sending updates throughout the lockdown period to help members and their communities. In the meantime, we recommend perusing the Ministry of Education’s resources for parents of early learners. Will the ECC be in their offices?Like everyone, we will be staying home from Wednesday 25. We have been preparing for this scenario and will work remotely, updating our members as we go.
If you need to contact us, you can do so at email@example.com or on our contact page.