Close Contact Exemption Scheme and ‘Bubble of One’

The government has introduced two new pathways to support business continuity during Phases 2 and 3 of the Omicron response.

The pathways are:

  • Close contact exemption scheme
  • Bubble of one.

The pathways will allow workers who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case to return to work during their period of self-isolation. Construction businesses will be able to qualify for these pathways for some workers in some circumstances.

Working with MBIE Building Performance and CHASNZ, the Accord has provided construction-specific information to help the sector understand the new pathways.

Read construction-specific information on Close Contact Exemption Scheme and 'Bubble of one'

Close contact exemption scheme

Workers at registered critical services who are vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts of a COVID-19 case will be able to continue to work, as long as they return a negative rapid antigen test prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period, and follow specific health protocols.

Registration is the first step to using the Scheme, businesses will decide on a case by case basis whether to have a worker return.

The register is self-assessed, and businesses make a declaration that they have considered the criteria and concluded that they are performing critical services. Unlike the business travel register, registrations will not be approved by MBIE. There will be spot checking to monitor compliance.

Read more testing and returning to work during Omicron(external link)  -

'Bubble of One'

For Bubble of One, registration is not required, but businesses will need to consider how or if the worker would be able to maintain a bubble. Workers will need to be vaccinated, but do not need to do daily RATS.

Read more testing and returning to work during Omicron(external link)  -

Caution urged in use of CCES and 'Bubble of One'

Construction businesses do risk bringing Omicron into the workplace by using these schemes, and that risk may outweigh the benefit of bring some workers back. Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are about 80 per cent accurate, and a case in the workplace could seriously undermine your entire operation (see CHASNZ advice below, on RAT use as part of a structured programme).

The Government is relying on sectors to take a responsible approach to this, and act with workers' health and safety in mind.

Businesses also need to be mindful of their health and safety responsibilities to other workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act and should first exercise all options available to allow workers to complete self-isolation, for example through the Leave Support Scheme and business continuity planning.

Last updated: 22 February 2022