Employers' goodwill towards staff will be put to the test over work-from-home policies during self-isolation for those who take an overseas trip.
For many frontline staff doing essential jobs - and who deserve a good holiday more than anyone - working from home (WFH) is not an option. But hundreds of thousands of others have been doing just that for the past two years, some for months on end.
At the end of the month quarantine-free travel is back for vaccinated Kiwis returning from Australia, and the rest of the world from mid-March.
This means the opportunity to catch up with relatives overseas or take a holiday without going through MIQ is now a reality.
However, under current settings travellers must self-isolate for a week when they get home. Although the Government has this week outlined some reasons for leaving home, and may change the requirement more fundamentally as Omicron spreads more widely, the current rules mean workers will either have to come to a WFH agreement with their boss or take another week's holiday when they return.
This will be a test for employers who have in some cases lauded the WFH efforts of staff as "heroic".
While retirees have more flexibility and have in many cases seen their asset prices soar and travel funds grow during the pandemic, for workers with limited leave the isolation requirement is an issue.
Travel Agents Association of NZ president Brent Thomas says good bosses will cut employees some slack.
Agents - who have suffered as much as any sector during the past two years - are naturally keen to see any barrier to travel removed. He says they want the isolation rule dropped completely but in the meantime it would be helpful for those thinking about booking trips to get some assurance from their boss.
"It helps an employer as well because you need people to take holidays. You need people to refresh. People do want to get overseas to recharge their batteries after a mentally tough two years and people are crying out to be able to get overseas and meet up with family and friends, which is equally as important," he says.
"We would, as an industry would want employers to take it into consideration that people work from home."
Employers who want to retain staff in the extremely tight labour market need to do what they can to make workplaces as attractive as possible.
Thomas also points out that if staff have been accruing leave during the past two years this is a drain on the company balance sheet and if they leave their jobs this liability is realised.
"If people start changing jobs, you have to pay out that money in holiday pay. That doesn't help the employer either," he says.
"Given that the unemployment rate is so low, employers have to think outside the square to keep employees."
Employment law specialist Jennifer Mills, director of Jennifer Mills and Associates, says that every case will be different.
She works on the assumption that the employee could perform their role remotely, but that they usually work in the office and not from home, or if working remotely they are self-isolating after international travel and not because they are a confirmed case or close contact. Communication will be the key.
"Anecdotally, over the last two years, many employers have found that employees working from home can cause significant disruptions to the business. In particular, employers have noted the impact that remote working can have on sales and client relations."
However, a policy that enables an employee to work from home while self-isolating is reasonable, in some circumstances, she says.
"For example, if an employee is unable to perform key aspects of their role while self-isolating, then it would be more appropriate for that employee to take annual leave rather than work from home. An appropriate balance would be to require employees to disclose that they will be self-isolating due to international travel and request they can work from home while isolating."
This would allow an employer to determine whether it would be effective for the person to work from home and whether it would cause disruption in the business.
"The employer could not reasonably deny the employee's request if the employee can perform all or most of their role while self-isolating. Both parties ought to treat the other in good faith and remain open and communicative," says Mills.