The New Zealand-wide lockdown lifts on Monday at 11.59pm.

But while businesses will have more leeway to open during alert level 3, they have to be able to do so safely. So what does that look like and will your workplace be open when the lockdown ends?

Any businesses that open must be able to do so while complying with alert level 3 rules, maintaining public health requirements and still fulfilling their usual health and safety obligations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that in alert level 4 it was "essential only"; alert level 3 will be "safe only".


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Dos and don'ts of level 3: A back-to-basics guide of what's allowed

Alert level 3 isn't carte blanche to bring employees back to the office, shop or factory floor. The Government says everyone must still work from home unless that's not possible, and alternative ways of working should be use to reduce risk.

That's because at alert level 3 there's still a high risk the disease is not contained, according to the Unite Against Covid-19 website. Community transmission might be happening, and new clusters could emerge. However, they should be controllable through testing and contact tracing. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Another guiding rule - there can't be any contact with the public. That means retail has to be contactless purchase and delivery, such as drive-thru or click-and-collect.

Shopfronts can't be open to customers, with the exception of supermarkets, dairies and petrol stations.

• See below for a full list of who can and can't open in alert level 3

Public health guidelines must be followed, including regularly disinfecting surfaces, encouraging good hand hygiene, not having sick people in the workplace and maintaining physical distancing.


So what does that mean for your business?

Milkshakes and coffees can be sold in level 3 but with no face-to-face contact - online or phone ordering must be used, and collection must be contactless. Stock photo / 123RF
Milkshakes and coffees can be sold in level 3 but with no face-to-face contact - online or phone ordering must be used, and collection must be contactless. Stock photo / 123RF


What are "alternative ways of working"?

This could mean working from home, doing shifts to limit the number of people on site at a time, flexible working or staggered meal breaks. Remember that if this means contracted hours or conditions need to change, by law this must be mutually agreed and negotiated in good faith.

I can technically work from home, but it's really inconvenient - my IT services are too slow or I want access to printing. Can I go into the office?

Sorry, convenience isn't a good enough reason to go in to work - you have to keep working from home unless that's impossible, MBIE says. "We understand this isn't always very convenient, and may result in people being less productive than they otherwise would have been in an office. However we all need to play our part in stopping the spread of Covid-19."

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Can I travel for work?

Yes, if you have to - as long as it's within your region or within a neighbouring region. Essential workers can travel outside their regions if it's necessary for work.

Can I meet with new or existing clients?

You should only be meeting with existing or new clients remotely - unless it's an essential service.

Can my business produce goods for export?

Yes. You can produce goods for export and ship them at alert level 3.

Can my retail store open at level 3?

Yes and no - you can't physically open your shopfront to customers unless you're a supermarket, dairy or petrol station. Any type of retail goods can be sold at level 3 but the process can't be face to face; it has to be by phone or online.

Delivery or collection must be contactless. That means customers could collect goods from the premises through a drive-thru or using a click-and-collect system.

Does anything change for supermarkets, dairies and petrol stations?

Good news for coffee addicts - dairies and petrol stations can start selling food or drink that's been prepared or cooked on site, such as coffees, milkshakes or sandwiches made to order. Customers can't eat the food before leaving the store.

Supermarkets can remain open at all alert levels but may still be subject to rules like capacity limits. The one-in, one-out rule remains for dairies.

Perspective: with Heather du Plessis-Allan - Why aren't shops open in level three?

Can my restaurant/bar/cafe open at level 3?

No, but you can sell prepared food and non-alcoholic drinks by contactless delivery and collection, including drive-thru. Most liquor licences require alcohol to be consumed on-site, so bars won't be able to provide takeaway alcohol.

How do you define a drive-thru?

This includes the obvious facilities like at fast-food outlets - but also temporary versions set up in retail car parks. It must meet public health requirements, including physical distancing, only accepting contactless payment methods, and having contact tracing plans in place.

For example, a cafe could take an order and payment over the phone, then deliver food or drinks to a customer parked in their car park "in a way that avoids contact".

But businesses need to make sure they have the right permits and can operate such a system safely, MBIE says.

Can takeaway booths serve customers who are on foot?

Yes, if they meet public health guidelines like physical distancing, MBIE says. "For example, a coffee booth may accept online or phone-based orders and place coffees on a table for customers to collect. This should only be done if their physical environment allows for sufficient physical distancing by customers."

What if my customer doesn't have Eftpos - can they pay cash?

Yes - if there's no alternative and the cash can be handled safely - eg through self-checkouts, or using sanitising methods.

Can I get supplies for non-essential home repairs at alert level 3?

Yes but you can't physically go to a hardware store - you will need to order them online or via phone, then get them delivered or collect them through a drive-thru system.

Can I get a tradie to do non-essential work on my home at alert level 3?

Yes, but you must both ensure public health measures are met, including physical distancing and sanitising.

PM Jacinda Ardern explains what alert level three means for you, your family and your business.

Can I buy, sell, or move house?

House sales and purchases are allowed at all alert levels, but many activities like open homes are not allowed at level 4. MBIE says during level 3 physical interactions should still be done remotely where possible.

"It may be possible to do a final pre-settlement inspection in person, or have a real estate agent come into the home, as long as all physical distancing and public health measures are taken." More guidance will be available on this shortly.

You can move rentals, even if it means you need to travel between regions or fly domestically to move house. All freight can be moved around the country, so moving companies can take your furniture to your new home.

Can I provide grooming services - haircuts, nails, eyebrows, waxing?

Not until level 2 - there's too much close personal contact involved. That also means you can't go to people's homes to offer these services.

Can I hire new employees at level 3?

Yes, but interviews should be done remotely.

My business can reopen at alert level 3, but an employee has health concerns. What should I do?

Employees who might be sick or have had close contact with someone with Covid-19 should not go to work at any alert level - and you shouldn't ask them to. You may be able to access the Essential Workers Leave Scheme on their behalf.

If your employee or someone they live with is at high risk of getting very ill from Covid-19, you should discuss this with them and if possible, agree to let them work from home or make changes in the workplace to minimise their risk.

Businesses need to meet their health and safety obligations at all alert levels. Workers who think these aren't being met can raise it with their union or notify WorkSafe.

My employee has kids at home - with ECEs and schools open at level 3, can I make them come to work?

You must discuss this issue with your employee in good faith. Can you let them keep working from home, or give them flexible working arrangements? Remember, while schools and ECE centres will be open at level 3 they may not be able to have all enrolled children on site.

If your employee can't work, you should try to agree on leave arrangements, including the use of annual or special leave. But remember if you are receiving the wage subsidy on their behalf, you should generally be passing on the full amount to the employee.

My employees have taken a pay cut during the lockdown. Do I have to pay them the old rate once they come back to normal hours?

As a general rule, employees should be paid, as normal, for each and every hour that they work, MBIE says.

"Some employers and employees may have agreed a reduction in hours during alert level 4. If hours worked then increase to normal levels at other alert levels, employees should be paid as normal."

On the other hand, some businesses may have agreed to cut pay to avoid making people redundant and keep the business running. In this case, "any return to standard wages would depend on what was agreed", MBIE says.

"Any reduction in pay must have been mutually agreed and negotiated in good faith. Employees should have had an appropriate amount of time to consider their employer's proposal."

Remember that in all cases, employment agreements and the minimum wage law still applies.

Further information about business operations at all alert levels is available here.

Hairdressers and barbers can't open under level 3 as they will be in close contact with customers and risk spreading Covid-19. Stock photo / Pixabay
Hairdressers and barbers can't open under level 3 as they will be in close contact with customers and risk spreading Covid-19. Stock photo / Pixabay


Can open

• Supermarkets

• Pharmacies

• Dairies on a one-in, one-out basis

• Petrol stations

• Liquor stores in the four licensing trust areas with a monopoly (one-in, one-out basis)

• Shopping centres/malls ONLY to allow access to essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies

Can operate

• Couriers and parcel services - deliveries should be contactless

• Removal/moving companies

• Plumbers, electricians and tradespeople can work on customers' property (e.g. in homes)

Can open but no face-to-face interactions with customers - online or phone only, with delivery or contactless pick-up

• Clothing stores

• Hardware and DIY stores

• Other retail stores

• Agricultural supply stores and pet stores

• Bars, cafes and restaurants (no alcohol to be sold)

• Only off-licence holders whose licence says they can sell and deliver alcohol can do so through contactless delivery and pick-up

• Exercise facilities and classes can only offer lessons remotely (eg online)

Can't open or operate

• Entertainment

• Tourist facilities

• Hairdressers

• Barbers

• Nail salons

• Non-medical massage services

• Cleaners going to clients' homes

• Door-to-door sales

• Outdoor adventure activities (e.g. guided walks, kayaking tours, quad bike adventures or scenic flights or boat trips)

• Driver instruction and licensing, except online applications

Other businesses

• Real estate - staff can come to work, no face-to-face appointments with clients

• No open homes, except remotely. One-on-one viewings and pre-settlement inspections may be possible - further guidance to come

• Client-facing workers (such as sales and business development people) must meet with clients remotely unless it is an essential service

UPDATE: The Herald has asked MBIE for specific advice on whether accommodation businesses such as hotels and backpackers can take on new guests.

An MBIE spokesperson said it could not provide further guidance than what had been released.

"Businesses should carefully consider how to safely operate at each alert level based on their individual circumstances. Industry organisations will also be issuing specific guidance for certain sectors and kinds of workplaces. If in doubt, businesses can contact WorkSafe, their industry organisation or their local Chamber of Commerce and BusinessNZ."