By Sheryl Haitana

What is your plan if you, someone in your family or your staff tests positive for Covid-19? Is your business prepared if someone does?

“Things can happen quite quickly so it pays to be prepared. And you don’t know what can take you down, it’s not all about Covid,” Federated Farmers national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

Federated Farmers and other industry bodies have prepared a checklist for farmers to have important information at
hand in case they or their staff are required to leave the farm at short notice.

The detail contained in the plan is unique to the farm and circumstances to allow temporary staff, family, friends or neighbours to come in and tend to the immediate needs of the livestock and other farm duties.

The checklist includes details from key contacts, to key feed and animal health instructions, how the water and irrigation system works, even down to the dogs’ names, and where their food is.

“I was carted off to Waikato Hospital about seven years ago, and having staff who could easily fit into the boss role and having a contact list was very helpful.

“You can’t be 100% prepared, but if you have basic planning it can take some of the stress away.”

Being in the middle of calving and mating recently has been a natural barrier to farms being impacted a lot by Covid-19 because people haven’t been off-farm socialising, Chris says.

“But with summer coming and as Covid begins creeping around the country, the rule book is about to change.

“It’s only a matter of time before we get more positive cases of Covid-19 turning up onfarm.

“Distance from health and other facilities, workforce shortages and the need to continue to look after animals and crops raise all sorts of complications.

“As DHB Medical Officers of Health will be making the decision on whether it’s practicable for a farmer or key farm staff member to self-isolate on the farm, evidence of pre-planning and preparedness will be an important factor.”

The checklist also includes key information about who lives onfarm and their health records to pass on to a
medical officer in the event of a positive case.

In regards to coping with staff onfarm in self isolation it is up to each individual farm on how they deal with it, Chris says.

For bigger farms, staff could carry on working some jobs without coming into contact with others. However on smaller farms that’s unlikely.

The government has two support packages to help farmers fund staff being off work to self isolate, which may also offer the opportunity not to use an employee’s sick leave or annual leave, Chris says.

The Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme is a two-week lump sum per eligible employee for businesses, including self-employed people.

The scheme is paid at the rate of $600 a week for each full-time worker and $359 a week for part-time employees.

There is also a Covid-19 Short-Term Absence Payment, which is a one-off payment of $359 for each eligible worker.
You can only apply for it once, for each eligible employee, in any 30-day period. Employers cannot get more than one Covid-19 payment for the same employee at the same time.