Natural Disasters and Weather Disruptions

Hospitality New Zealand - We're here to help

Below you will find relevant industry information to ensure that you are prepared to deal with specific business matters that may arise during and after a natural disaster.

As always, we are here to help our members and one of our team of experts is available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 0800 500 503.

I want to know about:

Safety First

You will not be able to open and trade if your building is unsafe. Check with your landlord about damages to your premises or if you are the landlord or owner of your building engage a structural engineer if you are in any doubt about the safety of your building. Building owners must meet legislative requirements to ensure the safety of people using their buildings.

WorkSafe NZ advise extreme caution when entering workplaces after earthquakes. Please be extra vigilant as there could be hazards that you would not expect when entering.

Click here
to view the expert advice from WorkSafe NZ.

Member Resource

For employment and insurance information, please download member resource ‘Disaster and Weather Disruptions – Employment and Insurance Issues – Ref no. 2.56’. Use your membership number and password to access and download.

Employment Advice

My business has been closed. What do I have to pay staff until I can re-open?

This can be a little unclear. In general, wages are normally payable if employees are ready, willing and able to work.

However, in an earthquake situation, authorities may not allow employees to enter the work site as this will give rise to OSH and safety issues and employees may not therefore be able to work through no one’s fault. In addition the work site will need to be safe before staff or customers can re-enter. In this situation the employer’s liability is generally confined to payment for the hours the employees would have worked for the first day of the cessation. Thereafter the employer shall not be obliged to pay wages, but the employer can elect to pay out annual holidays to cover the remaining period of the closure.

Sick leave provisions will also apply for any employees sick or injured as a result of the emergency.

Where the work site isn’t required to be closed or you are satisfied that it’s safe to use and you elect not to open or have no work for staff then again if employees are ready, willing and able to work and if employment agreements provide for a fixed amount of work the employer will either need to pay the contracted hours or reschedule work. There may also be scope to claim any costs incurred from your insurance and you should talk to your insurer about this. If however the employee isn’t able to work then the employer isn’t obliged to cover this cost. For employment agreements that do not provide fixed hours then staff should be advised as soon as practicable if there is no work.

Employees and employers can also agree to alternative options including alternative duties, work at other unaffected sites, working from home, annual holidays or unpaid leave. Employees can also be required to take annual holidays although 14 days' notice should be given and this only applies to annual holidays that the employee is entitled to on each anniversary of the date they commenced employment. If your employee refuses to take annual holidays on less than 14 days' notice you cannot require them to.

If agreement cannot be reached on what to do then suggest to your employee that they seek help from Work and Income. Annual Holidays will probably need to be exhausted before this could be granted.

My building has been condemned and the business is finished how do I deal with my staff?

This situation makes it impossible for employment agreements to be performed by either party and the effect is that the employment and employment agreements terminate. However you need to advise staff as soon as practicable. Final pays and any accrued holiday pay will need to be paid just as it would be when employment ends.

If any of your staff are in hardship as a result then they should approach Work and Income.

Click here for more information.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact your Regional Manager on 0800 500 503.

Accommodation Booking Advice

I had guests booked in but could not accommodate them do I need to provide a refund?

If as a result of the natural disaster, you are unable to provide services for which guests have booked or paid for such as a room, room hire or paid a deposit on then yes they are entitled to a full refund less any actual expenses that you may have incurred prior to the event that broke the contract. The same applies to any guests who would’ve had an obligation to pay for services, they are released from their obligations to pay the balance.

I have received a number of booking cancellations following a natural disaster – what rights to do I have?

It is natural that some guests may cancel bookings as a result of a natural disaster. For some it will be through an unwillingness to put themselves at perceived risk, for others it may be due to wholesale cancellation of business trips, domestic or international travel, conferences etc.

While large numbers of cancellations can be concerning for your business, remember, guests may well be a customers in the future and at times like this, they cancel for reasons that are genuine and important to them.

If however you are still able to provide the services they have booked and/or paid for, or you can provide the services for the dates booked, then technically you are still able to fulfil your contract with them. If however they are intent on cancelling their booking you should refer to the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) of the booking to determine what the guest has agreed to contractually.

You may also consider negotiating something to suit both you and the guest, with the view that developing goodwill now may well pay off for you in the future (pay it forward, so to speak). You could consider limiting the cancellation fee to the reasonable costs associated with that booking. Also take into account the likelihood that losses could be replaced by re-booking another guest.

For accommodation providers, if these bookings have come via an Online Travel Agent (OTA), your will need to be aware of the T&Cs of the OTA. Making contact with the relevant OTA to assist you at this time is also recommended.

Deducting cancellation fees from credit cards:

Should your guest agree to the payment of a cancellation fee, or part thereof, advise the guest at the time of these negotiations that their credit card will be charged. We recommend this is done in writing and that they acknowledge and accept the condition in writing back to you. If you don't do this, it might be considered an unauthorised transaction which the credit card companies can reverse at the request of the card holder.

Ultimately, regardless of the your T&Cs or an OTA's T&Cs, Credit Card T&Cs tend to override all others. So make sure you have clear processes in place for documenting any cancellation fee discussions with guests as this may be helpful should you need to clarify anything with the credit card company at a later date.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact your Regional Manager on 0800 500 503.

Insurance Information

We recommend that you contact your insurance company as soon as is reasonable possible. They will be able to guide you through your policy and ensure you know exactly what to expect (if your policy includes a business interruption policy, this may include payments to assist with staff wages).

Is there anything else that I should do?

You should advise the following organisations (if applicable) of any disruptions to operations:
  • District Licensing Agency (alcohol licences)
  • Your Gaming Trust
  • TAB

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