Coronavirus: Employee rights during the COVID-19 crisis

It's expected there will be hundreds of thousands of job losses due to economic fallout from COVID-19, but do you know your rights and protections you have as an employee?

If your work has shut its doors, you may be working from home or perhaps not working at all. So you're understandably worried you might not have a job to go back to.

What can you do? First thing's first, and this is the hard part, an employment lawyer recommends going to talk to your boss.

"Right now your employer is probably panicking as much as you are. They're not going to get everything right, have a bit of empathy in the situation if you possibly can and hopefully they'll do the same to you," Helen White told Newshub.

She also says your boss can't cut your pay without your agreement.

"If your employer is not making ends meet and you do not agree to reduce your wages, then it really is looking like it's going to be a redundancy situation - and that is a big deal. So I'm finding most employees and employers are relieved at going to a reduced wage at the present time."

There's also the Government's wage subsidy scheme, where employees can be paid up to $585 per week. That's there to keep you employed in the short-term.

"This is a high trust system and it is incredibly important they do pass on the whole subsidy to you. It says it in black and white, the whole point of the subsidy is to minimise redundancies," White says.

But if you are made redundant, and it's expected 200,000 Kiwis will be, is there anything you can do?

"A lot of employers at the moment don't want to lose the staff they've got, they do value them and they may well agree to rehire you. Make sure there is an email so you've got some evidence of that."

And if you're an essential worker but you're worried whether your work environment is safe, do you have to go to work? 

"There will be a lot of fear out there about doing that work and it's not unjustified fear. If you are an essential worker and your employer is taking the steps it should to prevent any risk to you, then you really are obliged to go and work," White says.

With closed signs in the windows of almost everywhere, restarting the economy won't be an easy feat. But another Monday morning at the office has never looked so good.