This article outlines a playbook for labour policies to deal with novel shocks such as COVID-19. The labour-related characteristics of such shocks are outlined, with special attention to whether and how they require labour market policy responses that are different from the conventional policies. Elements of a playbook for dealing with the crisis, as well as coming out of it, are outlined. They include having a first-responder policy team in place; acting quickly but flexibly; determining early the novel versus permanent nature of the shock; keeping people in their existing jobs; co-ordinating across other departments and jurisdictions; balancing active labour market policy versus passive income support; co-ordinating with other departments and jurisdictions; having information on lessons from previous shocks; anticipating conflicts; and planning for the recovery with an exit strategy. Although the playbook is illustrated with examples related to COVID-19, it applies to other novel shocks.