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Earthquake Fact Sheet | EMPLOYMENT

The earthquake caused a range of damage to businesses in the Marlborough region and to the homes and lives of employers and employees.  These are difficult times and the circumstances call for good
ongoing communication, cooperation and flexibility from all concerned.  Employers and employees should be talking to each other about pragmatic solutions to speed recovery for everyone's benefit.

1.   Can my employer require me to take annual leave because the workplace is closed?

Your employer can require you to take annual leave after giving you at least 14 days' notice if he or she has been unable to reach agreement with you.  This only applies to annual leave that you are entitled
to on each anniversary of the date you commenced employment.  You cannot be required to take annual leave on less than '14 days' notice, but you can agree with your employer to do so.

2.   My workplace was closed after the earthquake, so I was told not to come into work.  
       Does my employer have to pay me for the hours not worked?


Check your employment agreement to see whether there are any provisions that deal with events such as earthquakes.  Often there won't be, in which case the general rule is that your employer has a duty
to meet your normal pay as long as you are ready and willing to work.  These are however unusual circumstances and it is important that you and your employer take a common sense approach to getting
the business up and running again.

Some employees have been asked to help by taking annual leave, days in lieu, sick leave (if appropriate) and perhaps annual leave in advance of entitlement, but be aware of your rights in relation to annual leave as explained in question 1.

Some businesses will have insurance to cover the situation.  Small businesses may be able to access the Earthquake Support Subsidy to assist with their staff's wages.  This is a short term subsidy.

This subsidy provides financial support for businesses and self employed or sole traders affected by the November 14 Earthquakes.  The subsidy is available for a maximum of 8 weeks and will be backdated from 14 November.
It is paid at a rate of $500 gross for full-time employees, and $300 gross per week for part-time employees.

Kaikoura, Marlborough and Hurunui employers and sole – traders who do not have business continuity insurance can receive the ESS if they meet the following criteria:


  • operating in the area covered by Ward through to Cheviot on State Highway 1, and from Rotherham through Waiau, and Mount Lyford to Kaikoura and
  • either unable to access the workplace due to damage, a cordon, or an essential service that is not available or able to operate the business but experiencing a significant loss of trade due to the earthquake.

Rural Assistance Payments Earthquake for Kaikoura, Hurunui and Marlborough 2016

Farm workers, rural contractors and others whose incomes are affected by the earthquake aren’t covered by Rural Assistance Payments but may qualify for other assistance.
Please contact your local Work and Income Rural Assistance Payment Coordinator to find out what help you may be eligible for.


3.    My workplace was open after the earthquake.
       I stayed home because I didn't feel safe at work.  
       Was I entitled to do this?


It is your employer’s responsibility to take all practicable steps to ensure your safety at work.  All practicable steps means those a reasonable person would take given the severity of the risks, what’s known about how to eliminate or reduce them, and the cost of safeguards.  Many employers have obtained expert advice to ensure the workplace is safe after the earthquake. Under those circumstances, it is reasonable for an employer to expect staff to attend work.

You are entitled, however, to refuse to perform work if you believe it is likely to cause you serious harm (except where your work has inherent or accepted risks, such as policing or fire fighting). As soon as practicable you must attempt to resolve the matter with your employer in good faith.  You can only continue to refuse to do the work if there are reasonable grounds to believe it will cause you serious harm.
If your workplace has a health and safety representative you should involve him or her in this process.  

4.    I haven’t lost my job, but I have no work or reduced hours due to the earthquake.  
       Is there a Work and Income New Zealand? 

You may be eligible for the Unemployment Benefit if you are not in full-time work.
You may also be eligible for other financial assistance from WINZ, such as a Special Needs Grant, Recoverable Assistance Payment or other benefits.

Phone 0800 559 009, visit or make an appointment at your local WINZ service centre.


Financial support for individuals may be available in the form of Civil Defence payments for people in the following districts:

  • Hurunui
  • Kaikoura
  • Marlborough (such as Seddon and Ward).

Civil Defence payments can cover the following costs: 

  • payments if you’re hosting evacuees (private homes, marae or community centres)
  • accommodation costs if you’ve evacuated and are staying in tourist accommodation
    (motels, hotels or temporary rental accommodation)
  • loss of livelihood (where you can’t work and have lost your income because of the earthquake)
  • food, clothing and bedding (immediate needs up to a maximum amount).


You can call the Government Helpline 0800 779 997 to find out more about this.

Help with living expenses

Help with living costs is available for people in any location. If you need something urgently, or get an unexpected bill, and can’t afford to pay for it right now, WINZ might be able to help even if you’re not on a benefit.  It might be for things like medical costs, food, rent, power bills, repairs or replacing appliances.  You may have to pay the money back depending on your situation.

Need more help?

Community Law Marlborough provides free legal help over the phone or in person about employment and various other legal issues.
Phone our office on (03) 577 9919 or 0800 266 529 to talk to or make an appointment with a Case worker.

This fact sheet was written by Community Law Canterbury and adapted by Community Law Marlborough. 
It contains general employment information, and you may need to seek more specific information or advice about your situation.


This version: 8 December 2016




Community Law Marlborough Opening Hours

14 Market Street Blenheim

We are open Monday to Friday during the following times: 

  • Monday | Tuesday | Thursday 9.00am - 4.30pm | Friday 9.00am - 4.00pm
  • Late Night Wednesday 9.00am - 7.30pm

Please note the office will be closed from 1:00pm - 1:30pm daily for lunch

We offer our services by way of appointment, phone and email. Drop-ins are welcome depending on availability.
Contact us for more details
(03) 577 9919 or 0800 266 529

Kaikoura Outreach Clinic

We will be in Kaikoura on the 2nd Tuesday of every month between the hours of 10.30am to 3.00pm, or at other times by arrangement.

This clinic is situated at:

Heartlands, Beach Road Kaikoura

We also provide Skype and Zoom appointments between 9.30am - 4.00pm.  If you require a a video appointment call us on 0800 266 529 or you can call Heartlands on 03 909 9292 to arrange a time.

If the matter is urgent call our 0800 266 529 number to speak to a Caseworker.