COVID-19 information to support members

Risk Assessment for Health Care Workers Exposed to COVID-19 at Work

In general there are a number of controls in healthcare settings which mean the risk of COVID-19 transmission is considerably less than in general community settings.

However, there may be incidents where the risk is elevated to the next level i.e. when there have been multiple cases and/or evidence of transmission within the setting.

In DHBs each exposure event will be assessed and managed by the relevant team, which may include public health, infection control, occupational health and operational leads. Non-DHB hospitals and maternity units should have policies and procedures in place to deal with exposure events.

A national guidance document has been agreed between the Ministry of Health, DHBs and unions to ensure that we ensure a level of consistency in our response to these exposure events. This document provides guidance as to any necessary periods for stand down, isolation periods, testing protocols and return to work requirements.

Occupational Health Guidance for working in endemic COVID-19

Please note that all leave required e.g. stand down, awaiting test results, isolation periods will be paid as COVID-19 Special Leave and not be deducted from an individual’s sick leave balance.

Please also see the Ministry of Health advice Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak

This page provides information about what is a critical worker, what are critical health services, key information and the Risk Assessment and Categorisation of Healthcare Workers Exposed to COVID-19 at Work

What should I do if I am unwell?
If you are unwell, you should not be at work regardless of whether you think it is likely or unlikely that you have been exposed to COVID-19. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 you should be tested for COVID-19 and follow the guidance in the above document.

Who should I talk to if I have concerns that I or a family member may have been exposed to COVID-19?

You can seek advice regarding anyone who has been exposed to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, by contacting Healthline (0800 358 5453) in the first instance or call your GP.

You must advise your manager of your current status and requirements as advised by your GP, Public Health or Healthline as soon as possible.

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19 then any leave will be classed as Special Leave.

What should I do if I was at a location of interest or if I am a close contact of a COVID-19 case?

If you were at a location of interest published by the Ministry of Health (or you have been designated as a close contact of a known COVID-19 case) you should follow the directions of the Ministry of Health. There is a current notice under the Health Act requiring those who were at a location of interest or who are designated as a close contact to self-isolate.

What should I do if I am a household contact of a person who has been at a location of interest or has been categorised as a close contact of a COVID-19 case?

If you are a household contact of a person who has been at a location of interest you should follow the directions of the Ministry of Health.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is clear that employers must ensure the health and safety of their employees but it also places obligations on employees to ensure the wellbeing of themselves and others. Below are links to information useful to midwives. If you have concerns about employment-related issues arising from COVID-19, please contact us.

Health Order for Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Health Sector

The latest version of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 comes into effect at 11.59pm on 14 February, requiring workers who face a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and who work in the health sector to receive a booster.

  • Midwives need to have had their booster dose by the 15th of February if they have accessed and completed their primary course of vaccination (2 vaccinations) up to or more than 6 months prior to this date
  • Midwives who have more recently completed their primary course of vaccinations, have up to 6 months (183 days) from completion of their primary course of vaccinations (the date of the second dose) to access a booster dose
  • Booster doses can be either the Pfizer vaccine or AstraZeneca vaccine. The administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a booster dose is off-label use and requires a prescription by an authorised prescriber, in accordance with Section 25 of The Medicines Act 1981. It is not available at every vaccination service.
  • You are permitted to get the booster within 3 months of your second vaccination, but the Health Order gives you 6 months to get it (as detailed above).

You are encouraged to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest infection control recommendations and guidelines. The COVID-19 situation in New Zealand is evolving and we are still learning. The links and documents will be updated regularly as more is learned.

We will endeavour to keep you up to date with the latest advice as quickly as possible as new information becomes available. In the meantime keep yourselves and your whānau safe and follow any official Government advice given on the official website

DHBs Specific advice about Covid-19

MERAS has been involved with other health sector unions, the DHBs and MoH in revising the DHBs’ Employee-Related FAQs.

The FAQs cover leave arrangements, redeployment, personal and business travel, working from home, transportation to and from work, vulnerable workers, childcare, accommodation, contractors, locums and casual workers.

One improvement is that all leave in relation to COVID-19 will be paid as Special Leave and will not be deducted from your sick leave balance. Special leave includes when:

  • you are symptomatic and may have been exposed to COVID-19; or
  • you are required to self-isolate for any reason relating to COVID-19; or
  • you have been directed/required to stand down awaiting results of a COVID-19 test; or
  • you have confirmed COVID-19; or
  • you need to look after sick dependents who have COVID-19

You will have to use Annual Leave or LWOP if you decide to stay at home to look after child(ren) despite your children’s school or early childhood centre being open and your children being well and able to attend.

If you want to stay away from normal duties due to concern about a vulnerable household member, consideration will be given for working from home if possible, or accommodation support. The FAQs contain tips on how to ensure you don’t take Covid home.

There may be restrictions on taking Annual Leave at times depending on staffing levels. However, if you have approved Annual Leave, this cannot be withdrawn without your agreement.

DHBs Updated Occupational Health Guidance to Protect Vulnerable Staffas at 24 August  2021)

Omicron Redeployment Principles within DHBs

Links and documents below this line are provided for guidance only but may have been superseded now. Check with your local DHB for up to date protocols and information. 

Ministry of Health Resources

Maternity specific information

You will find:

  • Information for community-based midwives at all Alert Levels
  • Occupational health guidance for vulnerable community-based self-employed midwives
  • Information for radiologists on community-based maternity ultrasounds at different Alert Levels
  • Advice for the use of Entonox in labour
  • Recommendations on handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID-19 confirmed or probable women
  • Guidance on personal protection equipment (PPE)

The Infection Prevention and Control team at the Ministry are currently reviewing the PPE requirements and we will communicate any changes as soon as they are conveyed to us.

We would also encourage community-based midwives to create a QR code that families can scan if they are seen at home. This can be done here

Lead Maternity Carers claiming under the Primary Maternity Services Notice 2007 can find information about claiming for COVID-19 related transfers of care here

We will endeavour to keep you updated with any changes to information or guidance.

Covid 19 Employee Advice for Travel Updated 23 February 2022 

Advice developed by 20 DHBs to provide clarity for front-line DHB managers on general employment-related questions that may arise in respect of Quarantine-Free Travel (QFT). The advice will continue to be reviewed and may change rapidly given the nature of the Government and health system’s response to COVID-19. All travel for DHB purposes must be approved by the DHB before travel is undertaken.

Occupational Health Assessment Framework for Vulnerable Workers

National guidance for the assessment of COVID-19 vulnerable or at-risk workers has been produced. This guidance [published 23 March] has been developed by occupational health physicians from across New Zealand, and with input from senior medical officers from infection prevention and control; infectious diseases; and microbiology.

COVID-19 DHB Vulnerable Workforce Risk Assessment Framework for Staff I 23 Mar 2020 v1.0

3. COVID-19 DHB Occupational Health Assessment Tool for Vulnerable Workers 27 March 2020 v2.0 – NB: The revised advice contains new guidance for pregnancy [page 11] and for those aged 70 and over [page 11].

DHB staff should receive email updates from your local DHB notifying you of the steps they’re taking to identify and protect staff at risk from COVID-19 exposure. You will need to refer to your DHB self-assessment tool for further guidance.

Other helpful information:

Government COVID-19 Information site

Latest Covid-19 information on the Ministry of Health website (for public and health professionals)