More than 2,000 people made use of the Short-Term Absence Payment in the first week of March as Auckland went back into Level 3 lockdown for the second time in a matter of weeks.

The scheme pays $350 to workers who must isolate themselves while awaiting the result of a covid-19 test, and are unable to work from home while doing so. 

One week on either side of that, about 1,000 workers used the scheme to stay at home.

It was introduced in February to make it easier for those who are awaiting test results to stay away from work.

The Leave Support Scheme, which pays up to $585.50 per week for two weeks to help cover the paid absences of workers who must self-isolate because they have covid-19 or are considered a close contact of a positive case (amongst other reasons), supported 234 people in the week ended March 5.

The data shows that far more leave support applications are denied than approved. In the week ended March 5, 624 applications were denied, almost three times the number that were approved.

The Ministry for Social Development says one of the main reasons for the recent surge in denials was a large proportion of businesses applying for leave support when they should have been applying for the Short Term Absence Payment. These businesses were directed towards the correct scheme.

Other reasons include people already receiving another covid-19 payment or details on the application not matching Inland Revenue records.

The various government covid-19 support schemes, including the wage subsidy – which accounts for the majority, have come to a total cost of about $14 billion.

Since Auckland first went back into lockdown on February 14, another $125m has been added to that total.