Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirms law change doubling annual sick leave to 10 days

The Government will start the process of giving every New Zealander an extra five days of sick leave a year before Parliament adjourns for the summer break.

The announcement came during Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s post-Cabinet press conference.

Ardern said the Government was “getting down to business” with introducing new legislation.

The new sick leave laws would bring New Zealand into line with Australia, she said.

Covid-19 has taught the world that one person’s sickness could quickly become someone else’s.

There was evidence that extra sick leave is actually good for workplace productivity.

She confimed that tomorrow she wouldmove to declare a climate emergency in the House.

This would send a “clear single” to the private sector, Ardern said.

Sick leave to double from 5 days a year to 10

Within the next few weeks, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood will introduce legislation increasing the yearly sick leave allowance from five days to 10.

“Covid-19 has shown how important it is to stay at home when people are sick,” he said.

He added that amending the current rules will mean more workers can stay at home if they’re sick, and more sick leave will help support working parents.

The law change also keeps the current maximum entitlement of any unused sick leave at 20 days annually, which will help make it easier for businesses to implement.

Increasing sick leave was one of Labour’s pre-election promises.

The announcement today means the bill is expected to pass in mid-2021 and will go through the full select committee process so it’s able to receive submissions.

Earlier this month, the Greens pushed Labour to rush the planned sick leave legislation through Parliament before Christmas.

“The difference between five and 10 days off could be the difference between increased community transmission of Covid-19 or not,” Workplace Relations
spokeswoman Jan Logie said.

But Wood said at the time although the bill would be introduced in the House before Christmas, the legislation would come into force in 2021 and would go through the normal consultation process.

National’s leader Judith Collins said the policy would only make it harder for workers to keep their jobs – and would cripple businesses as they battle a recession.
“Increasing sick leave entitlements from five to 10 days a year while also increasing the minimum wage to $20 next year shows how out of touch Labour is when it comes to small business,” Collins told RNZ.

In a statement today, Wood said while around half of all employers provide the current minimum entitlement of five days, many employers offer ten days or more already.

This will mean no change for them, he said.

“But five days can be easily used up and employees who have used up their sick leave face a choice between working while sick or taking unpaid sick leave, which is not an option for many.”

Ardern is also likely to be questioned on the Federation of Islamic Associations’ submission to the Royal Commission investigating the Christchurch mosque terror attacks.

The group this morning publicly released its contribution this morning, which highlighted what the submission said was “systemic dysfunction” in some government agencies

It also stated the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet didn’t adequately monitor possible risks.

“DPMC … did not … assess domestic and external risks of national security significance and coordinate policy advise and policy-making to ensure that risks are managed appropriately,” the report stated.

The submission also pointed to the lack of diversity in the country’s intelligence network.

Ardern is likely to be further pressed on this – the Royal Commission’s report is with the Government and will be publicly tabled on December 8.

The Prime Minister is also likely to field questions about WorkSafe filing charges against 13 parties in relation to the Whakaari/White Island eruption that killed 22 people this time last year.

Ten parties are facing charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and are facing a maximum fine of $1.5 million, TVNZ reported earlier today.

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