Coronavirus COVID-19

RCSA COVID-19 Resources

Introduction

New Zealand is continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency. RCSA is closely monitoring official Government sources for current information and advice to provide members with the latest recommendations for recruitment and staffing firms.

Background

In January 2020 the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated that there was a high risk of the disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world.

To monitor the current situation of COVID-19 in NZ, members can access the Ministry of Health COVID-19 current situation webpage. This page provides information on current cases and on measures against COVID-19 in New Zealand.

What is COVID-19 & how does it spread?

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus that can affect the lungs and airways. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The NZ Ministry of Health provides information on COVID-19 including symptoms, spread and where to get help.

 The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38˚C)
  • shortness of breath
  • a sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell.
Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. The virus can be passed onto others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop. However, spread is most likely to happen once symptoms appear.

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Most people will be able to get better at home in isolation to avoid others getting it. More severe cases may need medical care in hospital. It is not currently clear whether people who have had COVID-19 have immunity from getting it again. There is no evidence that those who have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

People at higher risk

Some people may be at higher risk of COVID-19 becoming a severe illness. The NZ Ministry of Health explains that individuals are more vulnerable if they are:
  • over 70 years old with a health condition
  • living in an aged care facility where spread can occur more easily
  • have a medical condition and/or compromised immunity
Additionally, pregnant women in their third trimester when demands on the mother for oxygen are higher, should also be cautious and follow good hygiene practices. Other risk factors include ethnicity, smoking and obesity.

Workers who are at a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 are advised by NZ Ministry of Health to talk with their employer to assess risk and options for working differently if needed.

Public health measures, such as good hand hygiene, good respiratory etiquette and physical distancing are important actions all can take to prevent infection. Recruitment and staffing firms can access more detailed information about COVID-19 by accessing the following health and government authorities’ information.

Managing the risks of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace

On Thursday 14 May New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2 – Reduce. The move to Alert Level 2 reflects the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community is lower, however implementing and maintaining infectious disease controls remains vital for the health and safety of workers and other people.

The Ministry of Health sets the requirements for managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It has identified the controls you need to use to minimise the risk for your workers, volunteers, and other people affected by the work, like customers.

The key controls for work and workplaces are to:
  • keep people with COVID-19 symptoms off the premises
  • maintain physical distancing
  • enable good hygiene practices
  • keep track of people who enter the premises.

Alert Level 2 for business

Alert Level 2 brings many more businesses, not-for-profits and other organisations back to work. It is important for recruitment and staffing firms to keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that any action taken is measured and appropriate. This includes closely monitoring:
“Those PCBUs resuming work for the first time need to think about how to work differently to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For those PCBUs who are already operating, now is a good time to revisit the approach you already have in place.” – WorkSafe NZ

It is essential that we, as both an industry and as independent firms, manage the risk of exposure and respond effectively to protect our staff, candidates, on-hire workforce, clients and other relevant stakeholders.

Duty of Care

Health and safety laws in NZ require PCBUs (businesses, not-for-profit and other organisations) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety.

To comply with health and safety laws, recruitment and staffing firms must identify hazards at the workplace and associated risks, this includes the transmission of COVID-19, and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate those risks. Where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, recruitment and staffing firms must minimise risk to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, by taking one or more of the following actions that is the most appropriate and effective taking into account the nature of the risk:
  • substituting (wholly or partly) the hazard giving rise to the risk with something that gives rise to a lesser risk:
  • isolating the hazard giving rise to the risk to prevent any person coming into contact with it:
  • implementing engineering controls
If a risk remains:
  • implementing engineering controls
If a risk remains:

  • ensuring the provision and use of suitable protective equipment

When selecting control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, recruitment and staffing firms need to consider all of the above. It is important that recruitment and staffing firms do not skip the ‘elimination’ part of applying risk control measures. Recruitment and staffing firms should always aim for a higher level of control before deciding on administrative and PPE controls as the only measure. 

Guidance


RCSA encourages members to seek further general guidance on what's reasonably practicable and managing risks in the workplace in the:


Risk management for recruitment and staffing firms

The RCSA feels it is important to maintain a proportionally responsible approach to the management of the coronavirus risk, and remind recruitment and staffing firms that it is important to establish your own response based on your own advice, the advice and guidance from the New Zealand government and WorkSafe NZ. RCSA will continue to provide members, with information to assist in making the right decisions for your firm. RCSA have prepared, for recruitment and staffing firms, a guide on an appropriate range of actions to assist with managing the risk from COVID-19.  The key actions to be consdiered by recruitment and staffing firms include:

Acquire and keep up to date with health and safety matters
  • Closely monitor official Government sources for current information and advice
  • Closely monitor updates from and SafeTravel (NZ) on COVID-19
  • Acquire up-to-date knowledge of NZ Ministry of Health on COVID-19
  • Acquire up-to date knowledge WorkSafe NZ on COVID-19
  • Acquire up-to-date knowledge of World Health Organisation guidance material on COVID-19 for employers

Planning

  • Ensure that COVID-19 related health and safety matters are considered at each board/senior management meeting
  • Develop a plan for managing the risks from COVID-19 Note: Members can access WorkSafe NZ's COVID-19 safety plan for operating at Alert Level 2 to assist with preparing a COVID Safe Plan.
  • Ensure that appropriate resources and processes are used to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety
  • Ensure there is an efficient, timely reporting system for COVID-19 related matters
  • Contingency planning to manage staff absences

Engage with workers on COVID-19 matters and provide ways for workers to raise concerns or suggest improvements on COVID-19 measures in the workplace

  • Ensure you have mechanisms in place to engage with workers and for workers to raise concerns about COVID-19 Note: all businesses must have worker engagement and participation practices. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, recruitment and staffing firms (as a PCBU) must:
    • ensure workers’ views on matters that could affect their health and safety (COVID-19) are asked for and taken into account (engagement)
    • have clear, effective and ongoing ways for workers to raise concerns or suggest improvements on a day-to-day basis (participation) in relation to COVID-19

Consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders

  • Where you have overlapping duties with another business, ensure you have a process in place to communicate, consult, cooperate and coordinate activities on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19

Develop and implement COVID safe systems of work

Safe systems of work should address at a minimum:
  • maintaining physical distancing
  • cleaning and disinfecting
  • enabling good hygiene practices
  • gathering information on your workers’ wellness to ensure they are safe and well to work
  • keeping track of people who enter the premises
  • responding to and managing an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19
  • keep people with COVID-19 symptoms off the premises

Review your organisation's policies and procedures

  • Infection control
  • Travel
  • Events and meetings
  • Fitness for work
  • Consultation
  • Working from home
  • Code of conduct
  • Bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence
  • Mental health
  • Induction and training
  • On-hire risk management
  • Incident management
  • Emergency and contingency plan

Provision of information, instruction and training

  • Ensure workers are aware of the isolation/quarantine periods in accordance with advice from the Ministry of Health NZ. This includes when staff should not attend work.
  • Providing clear advice to workers about actions they should take if they become unwell or think they may have the symptoms of coronavirus, in accordance with advice from the Australian Government Department of Health and state or territory health department and Ministry of Health NZ.
  • Providing clear advice to workers about actions they should take if they are a confirmed, probable or suspected case of Covid-19.
  • Providing workers with information and links to relevant services should they require support.
  • Requirement to maintain physical distancing.
  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by workers and customers.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.
  • Advise workers to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.

Provision of adequate facilities and amentities

  • Placing sanitising hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace.  Ensure these dispensers are regularly refilled.
  • Provision of tissues and closed bins.
  • Access to washbasins and soap.
  • First aiders are trained in how to respond to illness in the workplace and have received specific information about COVID-19.

Monitoring the health and safety of workers and conditions of the workplace

  • Ensure regular engagement and participation occurs with REMOVEwith workers on risks from COVID-19 and the effectiveness of control measures.
  • Monitor workers’ health to ensure they are fit to attend work.
  • Maintain a register of people entering or leaving the premises or work space (minimum information includes: full name, contact telephone number, physical address).
  • Regular consultation with other duty holders you share a duty with to determine effectiveness of control measures.
  • Monitor conditions of the workplace and review control measures.

Guidance 

The RCSA has prepared a Risk Management Template for Recruitment & Staffing Firms to assist in the management of risks from COVID-19.

Support

This can be a stressful time for some people and may leave some feeling concerned.  There is a range of resources and support services available, including:

NZ Health & Mental Health Resources

  • Healthline
    For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.

COVID-19 Resources

NZ Ministry of Health 

WorkSafe NZ 

Other Government Websites 

World Health Organisation