21 Jun 2021

Implications of quarantine-free travel bubbles on your business and employees

With quarantine-free travel bubbles with Australia and the Cook Islands open and hopefully the start of many more in the near future, it is important to be informed about travelling in a bubble and its implications on businesses and employees.

If your employees are travelling in a bubble for business, you are responsible for their health and safety as well as costs associated with the trip, including any costs added by the affects of COVID-19. Providing them with enough personal protective equipment (PPE), like face masks, to last the duration of their trip if possible and making sure they’re comfortable with  the idea of travelling is also some duties that you need to account for.

When your employees are on a business trip, you have an obligation to pay and organise:

  • costs caused by the trip becoming longer than expected because of COVID-19, besides any expenses incurred for business related purposes, like travelling, meals and accommodation

  • costs if they have to go into managed isolation due to a disruption in the bubble

  • their normal pay as per their employment agreement if they become stuck overseas during a business trip and can’t work remotely

  • other types of leave if they get COVID-19 during the business trip and run out of sick leave.

If your employees are travelling in the bubble for leisure, you should let them know that while they’re on annual leave, it’s their responsibility to stay safe. The costs associated with managed isolation if needed would be borne by them.

From a business point of view, it is good to have a plan if there’s a COVID-19 resurgence and the employees are stuck overseas longer than expected or have to enter managed isolation. Considering and discussing things the things mentioned below before they leave would help be prepared and make the process a lot clearer and less stressful in case of disruptions-  

  • asking them to take equipment for working from home if they can work remotely or availability of leave to cover the period

  • available leave incase they get COVID-19 or the possibility of running out of sick leave

  • how long you would be able to hold their job open for them if they’re stuck overseas?

https://www.business.govt.nz/news/travelling-in-a-bubble/ is a good resource to help you understand obligations and duties in these cases.