Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern answers employment and wage subsidy questions

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took to Facebook Live to answer some of the public's questions she had received about COVID-19.

She spoke about the wage subsidy, employment and other Government support that is available to New Zealanders.

Here are a selection of the questions and answers she gave. Her full video can be watched below.

Will Work and Income employ extra call centre staff so people aren't on-hold for long periods of time?

Ardern didn't address whether more staff will be brought on to help ease the pressure on call centre workers, but she instead encouraged everyone to, if they can, log their Work and Income applications online.

"I really encourage people to do that, particularly for the wage subsidy - you can do that all online. But for others who do need to get in touch, just persist."

She spoke with Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni who says staff have been working throughout the weekend to clear some of the wage subsidy applications. Ardern says getting through these applications will help with the level of caller demand.

In a four-day period, she says 75,000 calls were logged with Work and Income, so they're "very, very busy" at the moment.

"When you do reach them, please remember how hard they're working for everyone right now, they're doing an incredible job and working very, very long hours."

Are employers allowed to ask staff to take annual leave instead of applying for the wage subsidy scheme?

Ardern wanted to make it clear that employees cannot be forced to take annual leave in order to receive a wage subsidy. 

But in general, if employers give their workers 14 days' notice they can ask their employees to take annual leave.

When it comes to using annual leave as a top-up to the wage subsidy, that can only be done in agreement between an employer and the worker.

She also added that the entire wage subsidy must be passed on to the employee.

What Government help is there for solo parents who are essential workers who need to stay home to look after children?

Essential workers who face the issue of not having another person in their bubble to look after children are eligible for Government-funded licensed childcare. This provides in-home care to children aged 0 to 14 of essential workers.

"We absolutely knew that was a problem so that's what we've done to resolve it," Ardern says.

How can I report a business that I don't believe is following COVID-19 employment guidelines?

Ardern says if an employer or business isn't complying with any COVID-19 employment restrictions, people should contact the labour inspectorate on 0800 20 90 20 or by emailing

What are people who are made redundant getting?

In cases where employees aren't receiving the wage subsidy, it simply means they've lost their job.

But Ardern says the stand-down period has been removed at Work and Income, meaning people will receive their benefits once their application is approved.

Before COVID-19, there was a stand-down period of usually one to two weeks, but this varied from person to person.

Are people with compromised immunity who need to self-isolate eligible for any benefits?

There is a wage subsidy for essential workers who need to self-isolate, she says.

"[It's] so we can support employers so those people aren't forced to work, which is important."

Can I get money out of my KiwiSaver?

Ardern says no KiwiSaver framework has been changed due to COVID-19, but there are hardship clauses people can look into.

She suggests people who need access to their funds should get in touch with their KiwiSaver provider.

"Before going down that track, you really want to make sure that you've accessed all of the support that may be available to you already from the Government."