Jacinda Ardern praises supermarkets for looking after vulnerable workers during COVID-19 lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has praised supermarkets allowing vulnerable workers to take paid leave, saying it's "best practice".

In a press conference on Monday Ardern thanked supermarket giants Foodstuffs and Progressive for not requiring vulnerable staff members to work through the four-week lockdown. The companies have also said they will pay workers for the duration of the level 4 alert. 

"This is good practice, and best practice. Vulnerable workers in our essential workers should not be on the frontline in that way," said Ardern. 

She said the confusion around paid leave for essential services is one that the Government is "urgently working on guidance for".

"It is critical that employees of essential services are able to take leave when they cannot work," she said. 

"The risk is that if these workers cannot work from home, have exhausted their sick leave, or do not have income support, they might feel pressured to keep going to work. We do not want that." 

On Sunday, Foodstuffs said all waged front-line, distribution and transport employees nationwide will receive a 10 percent allowance during the four-week period. Medically-certified vulnerable employees unable to work will still be paid whilst they self-isolate at home.

"While some stores might not have got the position around paying their staff right as this has changed, it is the promise of all of the co-operatives members they will all have it right moving forward," Foodstuffs said in a statement.