The government has announced what COVID-19 Alert Level 2 will look like for New Zealand.  The decision to shift to Level 2 is yet to be made.  Cabinet meets on Monday to decide if, and when, the shift to Level 2 will occur.  However, all indications are that Level 2 will begin from next Wednesday, but the Prime Minister has signaled that Level 2 may be phased in over a period of time to reduce the associated risks.

The framework for Level 2 significantly removes many of the strictest restrictions of COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4 which will be a much-welcomed relief for our collective sanity and a major boost for the economy.  The changes resemble a first step towards something like a return to ‘normal’. However, it isunlikely we will return to a true ‘normal’ until COVID-19 is a distant memory and a vaccine is available. The road ahead is long and we are truly only just starting the journey.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend. Be prepared to manage an influx of orders or customers, you don;t want your restaurant, cafe or store to be the reason we get kicked back into Level 3 or be shamed in the national media for any failings.

Basic Principles for Alert Level 2

Level 2 was described by the Prime Minister as a safe reopening of the economy.  The fundamental principles include:

  • People should stay at home if they are sick (as you always should!); and
  • Anyone with any cold or flu symptoms should be tested; and
  • Enhanced hygiene measures need to be in place (regular cleaning of high touch surfaces, etc); and
  • Contacts need to be traceable (i.e. a guest register will be required for somewhere that strangers can be in contact with each other); and
  • Social distancing (2m) remains for contact with strangers, but can be somewhat relaxed for non-stranger interactions; and
  • Bubbles will be a thing of the past; and
  • No gatherings of more than 100 people (inside and outside); and
  • Contactless payment will no longer be required; and
  • Borders remain closed, but domestic travel can resume.

The Government is working on a nationwide contact tracing technology that will be based on QR codes, but it does not sound like that will be ready in time for the shift to Level 2. As wit most things, you’re better to have a plan for your own business rather than waiting on the government.

What Alert Level 2 Means for Businesses

If businesses can safely trade within the Level 2 framework, they will be able to do so.   The shift to Level 2 will provide the first opportunity to trade for about 7 weeks for many businesses, including some of the hardest hit industries.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect that there will be an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend.  Consumer confidence is extremely low, so consumer spending will almost certainly fall to far lower than normal levels at some point after this initial rush.  Therefore, businesses will want to make sure they are prepared and can reopen safely in those first few days.

The Prime Minister today described how certain industries will be able to operate.  Here is a brief summary:

Retail – can trade with enhanced hygiene measures, especially for high touch surfaces.  Numbers of customers in the store may need to be managed for larger retailers to ensure social distancing.

Hospitality – Unsurprisingly hospitality has the toughest requirements.  A hospitality venue will be subject to the “3 S’s”:

  • Seated – patrons must be seated.
  • Separated – there must be physical distancing between the tables.
  • Single server – each table must be served at the table by a single server.

These requirements may mean that it is impractical or uneconomical for certain hospitality venues to reopen at Level 2. This specifically applies to some bars and nightclubs. However, some restaurants will also not be able to seat a viable number of patrons or will simply not have the required number of staff to enable single server service per table.

Hairdressers and beauty salons – can resume seeing customers but will need to wear personal protection equipment due to the prolonged close proximity to customers. Masks or facial shields are the key items to be worn. Regular hand washing with soap and water is more practical and effective than gloves in many instances.

Sport and recreation – Gyms, pools, parks and museums etc can all reopen, subject to necessary precautions.

Sports can resume on a case by case basis.  A domestic rugby and netball competition will start as soon as possible.

Education – Can resume subject to necessary precautions.  Schools will resume the first Monday after the announcement.

Cleaning is key for all businesses. We recommend bathrooms and high touch surfaces are cleaned as frequently as possible. Tills/EFTPOS machines should be sanitised after contact payments, hands should be washed at least every 15 minutes and bathrooms should be cleaned as often as practicable given their levels of use.

Book in a Free Chat with one of our Experts

Need to discuss your plans for moving forward? Click HERE to book a free 30 minute chat with an MBP Business Partner. We can advise on everything from tax to payroll, human resources, cashflow and more.

New Zealand will move down to Alert Level 3 from start of business on Tuesday 28th April 2020. The change in the alert level will mark a shift from ‘essential’ business operations to ‘safe’ business operations, with many strict restrictions still in place. For the construction industry, this means a return to work, provided specific heightened health and safety standards can be strictly adhered to.

We have had a number of discussions with our building and construction sector clients in recent days and know this will be very welcome news. To ensure that the last month (soon to be five weeks) of lock-down have not been a very expensive waste, it is essential to follow the new industry guidelines.

Health & Safety Guidelines for Construction at Level 3

Last week, Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ) in conjunction with the joint government/industry Construction Sector Accord developed and released detailed construction health and safety standards and protocols for the residential, civil and vertical construction sectors.

Each construction site operating at Alert Level 3 (or level 2 when we get there) needs to have a Covid-19 Control Plan in place. The plan will guide how the principal or main contractor and contractors will manage work on site and the controls they will use to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Responsibility for Administering COVID-19 Control Plans

The Covid-19 controls are over and above the existing health and safety plan requirements for residential construction sites. It is the responsibility of the site owner (the party responsible for overall site coordination) to ensure this plan is in place.

The site owner may be a client (e.g. in the case of a self-managed renovation); a group home builder; a project manager; or a small builder / contractor. There must always be a nominated person on site when work is occurring who is responsible for administering the Covid-19 management plan. This can be shared among multiple people from different contractors for an individual site if required.

Read the CHASNZ Protocols

The Covid-19 Health and Safety Protocols for Residential Construction Sites outlines the minimum standards to be implemented at residential construction sites. These protocols apply at Alert Level 3 and 2 and supplement the Covid-19 Standard for Operating New Zealand Construction Sites developed by CHASNZ.

Download and read the residential requirements for construction in Alert Level 3 here, and find out more about the requirements for other types of construction here.

Need some help getting your head around the new protocols? Book in a chat here.

New Zealand will move down to Alert Level 3 from start of business on Tuesday 28th April 2020. The change in the alert level will mark a shift from ‘essential’ business operations to ‘safe’ business operations, with many strict restrictions still in place. For hospitality at level 3, this means contactless takeaways only, provided specific heightened health and safety standards can be strictly adhered to.

We have had a number of discussions with our building and construction sector clients in recent days and know this will be very welcome news. To ensure that the last month (soon to be five weeks) of lock-down have not been a very expensive waste, it is essential to follow the new industry guidelines.

Is it Even Viable for you to Open?

The first thing you need to carefully consider is can you actually afford to open at Alert Level 3. For many businesses, the restrictions at level 3 make it more expensive to open than to stay closed, do you know if your business is one of those?

Do not rush and think that just because you can fire up the kitchen again that you’ll be better off. You need to have a plan and a high-level cashflow forecast for every scenario. Some key questions to ask yourself before even considering opening:

  • Do I have the ability to do takeaway?
  • How will customers order?
  • How will customers pay?
  • How will the orders get to the kitchen?
  • What is the likely demand?
  • How  many staff will I need?
  • How do we manage the staff we don’t need?
  • Is our kitchen big enough to allow safe operation and social distancing?

These are just a few of the essential questions you’ll need to ask yourself. If you need a hand running through these, book in a free 30 minute chat with one of our business advisors.

We also have a range of free and fully funded services to help you make informed cashflow decisions. You can access our free Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Guide here and download a copy of the free BCP template from there. That will help you with many of the decisions you need to make.

Preparing your Business to Open

In the lead up to the move from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3, you can start getting your business, premises and staff ready for work.

Talking with your staff is really important and should be one of the first things you do. Engaging with them is essential to making sure they are happy, healthy and safe to work. They will also need to be up-skilled on the new health and safety protocols and requirements that you will have in place.

Look at your menu. What items can be done with contactless delivery or pick-up? What things will be impractical to serve?

You should have completed a stock-take before shutdown and know what your need to reorder to get back up and running. If you haven’t, head in and get the stock take sorted so you know where you’re starting from with your stock. A lean stock flow will be essential. There is no knowing if we will go back into lock-down and customer demand is unpredictable so don’t carry more than just a couple of days of stock at a time.

It is likely you’ll also need to order in some extra take out containers and other items to facilitate a changed operating environment if takeaway is new for you. If takeaway is new, its even more important to have made a well informed decision on the viability of opening.

A key task to be undertaken in the lead up to opening will be a floor to ceiling clean of you premises. After more than a month of being closed, its likely the place will need more than just a vacuum and a wipe over. Set aside a day to get in there and give it a deep clean and sanitisation. Health and Safety has never been more important. The last thing any business needs is to become a center of a new cluster and the reason the entire country gets kicked back to level 4 and locked-down.

Health & Safety Guidelines for Hospitality at Level 3

Hospitality at Level 3 is not business as normal. However, you should already have most of what you need in place from before lock-down.

We’ve received many questions about the need for gloves to be work when working. If you did not previously wear gloves when working then there is no requirement for them to be worn now at level 3. While it might seem a smart move to use gloves, they can actually become a recipe for unsafe and unhygienic practices, especially if your staff are not used to working with them. Regular hand washing with soap and water is often your best option. Avoid relying on sanitizer as this is less effective than simply washing your hands properly (it’s also more expensive).

Similarly, people have been asking us about masks. These are probably a better protective option than gloves. It must be noted that they are most effective at preventing, or at least limiting, the chances of your staff contaminating the food you’re preparing rather than protecting staff from contamination from customers. Contactless processes and social distancing between your staff and customers is essential. Masks will be easy for front of house staff to utilise as long as they discard and change them regularly, especially after breaks. It may be harder to utilise them with staff in the hot confines of kitchens. Make them available for your staff and encourage their use.

The best thing you can do is to ensure that any staff returning to work have had no chance of contracting the virus and have had no symptoms at all over the previous week or more.

Every business in hospitality at Level 3 (or level 2 when we get there) should have a Covid-19 Control Plan and policies in place. The plan will guide how the business and its employees will manage work on their premises and the controls they will use to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission between each other and to customers.

WorkSafe has some great guides and template safety plans on their website. You can access them here.

Read the WorkSafe Guidance

Worksafe has some really good information for all businesses, including hospitality at level 3. It is well worth taking the time to run through this before you make any plans to open.

The governments dedicated COVID-19 website also has a wealth of information about what level 3 will look like overall. Click here to have a read through of all the info on covid19.govt.nz.

Remember, just because the cafe or restaurant down he street is opening, doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t make a knee-jerk reaction to open. Make a calm and well informed decision that is in the best interests of your business, your team and your customers. As a nation, we’ve all been really supportive of the lock-down and the extraordinary measures taken to preserve our health. Your customers will still be there in two weeks and you’ll be there, healthier than ever, to serve them.

Need some help getting your head around the new protocols and whether its worthwhile opening? Book in a chat here. We’re here to help.

Employees at businesses both large and small are now telecommuting/ working from home. Many companies around the world are restructuring their management practices to meet the challenges and opportunities of managing remote teams.

Now with the spread of the COVID-19 and workers being asked to work-from-home the need for managing remote teams is higher than it’s ever been.

Because they tend to be more agile and open to change, small businesses are particularly well positioned to adapt to telecommuting. Increased productivity and happier employees who appreciate the added flexibility are just a few benefits winning over small business owners.

But telecommuting also presents some challenges – in particular, two core issues: keeping track of what remote workers are doing and ensuring that remote and in-house teams form a cohesive unit.

These tips can help you effectively manage and support your remote employees and ensue the ongoing success of a remote business.

Promote Communication and Accountability when Managing Remote Teams

Defining expectations and setting up methods to track results are essential elements of remote team management. Here are a few ways to make sure your remote workers understand what is expected of them:

  • Set up a shareable daily work log your remote workers can use to report their progress on ongoing projects (Google Drive offers some good options).
  • Utilize a project management system to exchange messages, assign tasks and monitor projects rather than relying solely on email.
  • Determine key indicators for success for each remote worker and share these indicators with your employees (these might be daily, weekly or monthly goals).
  • Conduct regular reviews with remote workers to assess their performance.

Include Remote Workers in Office Culture

Positive work culture and employee engagement are quickly becoming top priorities for business managers who want to retain top talent. These tips will help your remote workers feel just as valued and validated as your in-house team.

  • If your in-house workers enjoy a monthly pizza party, don’t forget to include your remote workers. Invite them to attend, have a meal delivered to them or offer a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant.
  • Get to know and spend time with your remote workers, just as you would with in-house staff. Set aside a few moments each day to inquire about their families, personal interests, recent challenges and successes.
  • Consider pairing up remote workers to complete complex tasks. You’ll improve efficiency while helping remote workers feel like part of the team.

Ready to Enjoy the Benefits of Managing Remote Teams?

If the benefits of  managing remote teams outweighs the risks in your view, try offering your staff a work day from home a week – then, if it works out, you can try hiring remote employees. Some small business owners hire a remote employee in another region – a great way to expand their market.

If you trust your employees to work hard no matter where they’re located, the main thing to remember is fostering teamwork. A monthly meeting that everyone is required to attend can encourage stronger relationships, allow opportunities to clear the air or discuss any challenges – and improve a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

Got a question about your business? Get in touch with the team at MBP. We can help you develop a remote working tech stack, implement HR policies for remote working and health & safety as well as work with you on your business culture and performance.

With the government announcement of the change to Level 3 and moving to Level 4 Lockdown in the next 24 hours, we understand that this will have a dramatic impact on our client’s and their businesses.

We fully understand the likely impact, and we are working as quickly as possible to be able to fully support our clients through this time.  But as you will appreciate, we are getting information at the same time as you are, so we don’t always have the answers or reassurance that you are looking for immediately.  Please bear with us and rest assured, we are doing everything that we can to be here to support you.

The level of client calls though does mean our response times getting back to you may be a bit longer.  We appreciate your understanding regarding this.

In the short term, our response will be to contact every client regarding the Business Wage and Leave Subsidies that the Government has announced.

If you don’t have Cloud Payroll Software and think that you may need our assistance to make applications, please email your MBP Business Partner as soon as possible a report showing your staff names, IRD numbers, and Dates of Birth.  We will need this information to make Wage and Leave Subsidy applications on your behalf. You will need to email this to us before the level 4 restrictions start tomorrow night. Our admin team will no longer be supporting your MBP Business Advisor directly after 5pm tomorrow (24th March 2020).

If you have couriered something to our Taupo office, we have made arrangements with the courier companies to have these redirected.

Once the subsidy applications have been launched, we will start to assist clients to assess the likely impact on their cashflows and talking to their bank.

The third wave of our support will be to assist with planning to try and minimise the longer-term impact of this. This is really the perfect time to start working on your business while its impossible to work normally in it.

Please contact your MBP Business Partner at any stage through the next four weeks.  We are all working from home and are here to support you as best we can in this difficult time.

The MBP​ Family wishes you and your family all the best through these difficult times, stay safe and healthy.