Insights, Law Changes

Close Contact Exemption Scheme now Available

New Zealand has now moved into Phase 2 of its Omicron Response. This means that the Close Contact Exemption Scheme is now available for businesses that provide critical services. Here we outline the scheme and provide a run down on the basic steps to register and operate your business as a critical service.

Workers at registered critical services who are close contacts of a Covid-19 case will be able to continue to work if they meet the below criteria. The worker must:

  • Be vaccinated against Covid-19
  • Be asymptomatic
  • Return a negative Rapid Antigen Test prior to each day/shift that they are working during the isolation period; and
  • Follow specific health protocols.

The worker will be allowed to go to work – nowhere else.

In order to use the scheme, a business must first self-assess whether they meet the criteria for being a critical service. They can do so using the online tool at If they find they do meet the criteria, the business must then register a self-declaration that they are a critical service on the Close Contact Exemption Scheme Critical Services Register. The business will then receive an email recording the declaration and assigning them a unique identifier. This email is not an approval. Entries on the register will be spot-checked.

A worker at a registered critical service who is identified as a close contact will have to contact their employer to notify them. The business can then begin the process of arranging Rapid Antigen Testing. The business must send the worker two documents:

  • A copy of the email from the Register that contains the business’s unique identifier
  • A critical worker authorisation letter, which must include:
    • A declaration that the business and worker are critical, with a rationale (which may include the output of the self-assessment tool)
    • An outline of the protocols the worker will need to follow to mitigate transmission risks
    • The business’s unique identifier from the Register email
    • The workers workplace identification (if they have one).

The worker will then need to collect a Rapid Antigen Test kit from a Ministry of Health distribution hub (see Rapid Antigen Testing). Alternatively, if the business has a private supply of Rapid Antigen Tests, they can opt to supply the worker with these instead. The business should still write and send to the worker the critical worker authorisation letter. This is evidence that the worker has an exemption.

The Close Contact Exemption Scheme may be a big help in keeping critical services up and running. However, businesses should think carefully about whether or not to use the scheme, as close contacts continuing to work could result in greater absenteeism in the future.