Under Alert Level 2 businesses have more ability to carry out the day-to-day running of the organisation but must meet strict public health requirements.
The Financial Markets Authority has provided a guideline for its service members, which will be of use to law firms.
It states that workplaces may re-open where contact tracing is possible and should look to maintain a one-metre separation between staff, and between staff and customers.
“Workplaces are encouraged to use alternative ways of working if possible. Where this isn’t possible, we expect workplaces to take a common-sense approach, apply judgement, follow good hygiene practices, and minimise contact.
“Services may now be provided on customers’ premises (eg, in homes) but interactions must be recorded for contact tracing purposes. This means, for example, that financial advisers will be able to visit clients in their homes or host meetings in the adviser’s office. We expect firms to apply judgement and common sense.
“The expectations of customers, the community, workers, and regulators is that workplaces continue to meet the highest possible standards and that managers, supervisors, and individual workers actively manage adherence to the safety measures and expectations.”
Obstacles in the office
Wellington lawyer Olivia Lund, of Duncan Cotterrill, told Radio New Zealand that Level 2's rules are looser than she had expected.
"It's not as restrictive as what I had anticipated. So we will probably have more of our workforce returning to the office," she said.
She told the station even getting into the office past the shared space in the lobby of a multi-storey building presents new obstacles.
"If there is no other way to access the workplace, so the stairs can't be used ... it might be that it's one person in a lift at a time, that would be a consideration," Ms Lund said.
"Or otherwise, use the stairs to avoid that close proximity."
However, it might be practicable and acceptable for workers who were strangers to each other to share a lift as long as the duration was limited, she added.
Wellington firm Hayman Lawyers announced on its website that its lawyers would be back in the office from today (Thursday), and ready to meet with clients again.
WorkSafe New Zealand has provided more detailed guidance on workplace activity.
The organisation says that:
- Workplaces must minimise the risk of transmission and look to maintain physical distancing (one metre) between workers where possible,
- Workplaces must take practical hygiene steps to avoid the spread of the virus
eg, supplying soap and water or hand sanitiser to ensure workers can frequently wash their hands; splitting meal breaks to reduce the number of people using a kitchen; increased cleaning of high touch surfaces,
- Workplaces must hold centralised records of any workers working together and set up contact tracing measures (ie, sign-in and sign-out procedures for customers and staff, recording interactions and floor access),
- Workers are not to attend the workplace if they have any symptoms of feeling unwell or are being tested for COVID-19,
- Workers are not to attend the workplace if they have been in close contact with anyone who is displaying respiratory symptoms, being tested for COVID-19, or has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19,
- Workers who are, or come into close contact with someone who is, considered ‘higher risk’ of becoming severely ill from COVID 19 may attend the workplace but are advised to take additional precautions when leaving the home.
· The Government’s COVID-19 website provides important general information on life under Level 2.
Law firm Lane Neave is holding a webinar on “Post lockdown return to work and recruitment” on Wednesday 27 May.