Kerre McIvor: Businesses shouldn't have to bear the burden of sick leave increase

Author
Kerre McIvor,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Dec 2020, 4:25PM
Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood will introduce a law change to double sick leave entitlements. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood will introduce a law change to double sick leave entitlements. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Kerre McIvor: Businesses shouldn't have to bear the burden of sick leave increase

Author
Kerre McIvor,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Dec 2020, 4:25PM

The government has acted with alacrity and introduced legislation requiring employers to offer all their employees 10 days annual sick leave.   

A number of employers already do that – we have 10 days sick leave at this company, and I think half of the employers in New Zealand offer more than the legal limit.

It has opted not to increase the maximum amount of sick leave that can be stockpiled by an employee however, keeping it at 20 days.  The increase to the legal minimum will kick in from late 2021 – the Greens wanted it in before Christmas, but Labour said ‘no no, no need to rush things’ – and employers are adding up the cost of this new feature to employment law.  

Workplace relations and safety minister Michael Wood told Mike Hosking that this morning that while it might be an upfront cost for employers, it will cost the country a lot more if workers drag themselves and their germs into work because they've run out of sick days.

There is a cost to the country if people become unwell and haul themselves in and spread their germs because they have no sick leave and need to put food on the table.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I don't think this financial burden should be solely born by business people. 

We all benefit when people stay home when they're sick – so therefore it should be a taxpayer funded cost.  What happened to the team of five million? 

National says it’s the wrong time to extend sick leave - doubling sick leave just piles more costs onto businesses at a time when they can least afford it coming on top of minimum wage increases and the proposal for an extra public holiday. 

You’ve got all these extra stresses on business after a very very busy year. At the same time, you’ve got stresses on employees, especially those who work in slightly less paid jobs who do not have the luxury of 10 days sick leave, so they are going to haul themselves in as they simply cannot afford to come in.

But surely if we as a country all benefit from this, don’t pile it all onto the shoulders and backs of business people. Let it be a taxpayer funded cost – put it on this magical tab that we’ve got, where we’re writing off everything.

I really would love to see this spread across all of society.