Yesterday, Labour announced that sick leave for workers would be doubled from 5 to 10 days.
It was one of several changes announced today by Workplace and Safety Relations Minister Andrew Little. It comes in a year when COVID19 has put unprecedented pressure on New Zealanders in their places of employment, where essential workers have been supermarket workers, bus drivers, cleaners as much as police, fire and ambulance personnel. Those other important changes are:
- Recognising security guards as vulnerable workers to ensure their terms and conditions are protected.
- Ensuring that Seafarer Welfare Centres provide better services.
- Raising the age for workers to be allowed to perform hazardous work, and ensure all workers have the right to elect health and safety representatives.
- Strengthening the Employment Relations Act to make it harder for collective agreements to be undermined.
Ultimately though, it is a win-win for all New Zealanders, because whilst employers in the short term feel the pinch, in the longer term their employees will be more productive because they will not feel the financial pressure to come to work when they need to be recovering. In turn the vast majority of workers will be able to return to work at 100% capacity.
Five days has never been quite enough. I do not get sick very often, but when I do get sick, I have been known to lose an entire working week getting over it, then running at about 3/4 speed for another week after that. That means I could lose all of my sick days in one go, and if I were to get sick again later in the year, I would have no paid sick leave to cover it. If one has a sick child and they have something infectious, it might well be that one needs a couple of days off to get better, but if a person is the solo money earner in the house, that might make finances tight.
There will always be a couple of nit wits who think that the extra days sick leave will give them more opportunities to skive off and go to the beach, or engage in activities that be normally only carried out someone well enough to be working. They deserve to be disciplined. The worst of them deserve to lose their jobs if their absenteeism is becoming a problem. But that will not be the vast majority of workers.
Trade unions, advocates and the Green Party all welcomed the move as a major step forward and said they would work with Labour to make sure that the measures are implemented.