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Everyone needs time to mourn the dead

5 February 2004 Media Advisory

Everyone needs time to mourn the dead


Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says there is no such thing as unlimited bereavement leave under the new Holidays Act, there is no reference to tangi leave, and there is no differentiation on the basis of race or religion.

“Reported comments by Don Brash about Maori getting unlimited tangi leave under the new Act are simply wrong.

“The new Holidays Act gives everyone three days to mourn for someone within their immediate family, and a single day to mourn someone close to them. Everyone has the same modest entitlement, and it is perverted to use this modest allowance as a reason or an excuse to discriminate.

“I am concerned that misinformation is being spread just as businesses are preparing for the changes under the new Act, which comes into effect on April 1. A smooth transfer depends on businesses getting accurate information, and misleading comments from high places about entitlements sets up employers and employees to fail. It is unfortunate, to put it mildly, if the leader of a political party attacks our right to mourn when he does not know what the legislation says or accidentally misrepresents it.

“I am deeply concerned that Dr Brash appears to have condoned discrimination against job applicants because of their race. This is illegal, not to mention small-minded. At a big-picture level, every potential employee regardless of colour or creed is a valuable resource for this country. Leaders should focus on making the most of our workforce as a prized asset - everyone’s contribution counts and there should be opportunity for all. Advancing a stereotype of Maori employees as unreliable and absent is not a winning strategy at any level, and it is especially hurtful when we are encouraging every young person into education, training and jobs. Recognising and catering for diversity is necessary in this day and age of inter-personal skills, niche markets and demographic targets.

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“The right to take time off work to mourn the dead is not a race relations issue, it is a human one. Death and grief are a universal experience, even if our families and relationships are not uniform, and even if we express grief in different ways when they die.”

Under the new Act, which comes into effect on April 1:

An employer must allow an employee to take bereavement leave (3 days) on the death of their spouse, parent, child, brother or sister, grandparent, grandchild or spouse’s parent.

An employer must also allow an employee to take a single day of bereavement leave for the death of any other person, if the employer accepts that there is a genuine bereavement. When deciding whether the bereavement is genuine, the employer should take relevant factors into account. Relevant factors would include the closeness of the employee and deceased person, whether they have significant responsibilities for funeral arrangements, and any cultural responsibilities the employee has relating to the death.

“Employers and employees can agree for more time off, and I’m sure many do, but we have minimum entitlements to ensure everyone has time to mourn.”

“The Government is doing its best to ensure businesses get accurate information on their responsibilities under the new Act. To help businesses prepare, the Employment Relations Service of the Department of Labour is mailing 150,000 information packs to employers and posting the relevant information on its website,” Margaret Wilson said.

ENDS

For more information about the Holidays Act phone the Employment Relations Service freephone on 0800 800 863 or see www.ers.dol.govt.nz

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