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Focus On Workers! Sick Leave Allowance Must Increase

If New Zealand is serious about building resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic and protecting our communities against future outbreaks, statutory sick leave allowances must increase and the Holidays Act must be amended to better protect workers rather than employers, FIRST Union said today.

This morning, the Education and Workforce Committee heard submissions on the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill, and Tali Williams, Secretary for Retail and Finance, presented FIRST Union’s argument.

"While we support many of the changes suggested in this Bill and the general intent to offer increased protections to individual workers, an increase to ten working days of sick leave only partially deals with the problem," said Ms Williams.

"While we go through this law-making process, let’s deal with the issue comprehensively while we can - a minimum of twenty days’ sick leave is the right option especially during the pandemic, and we have a chance to do this right the first time."

FIRST Union delegates from the retail sector presented arguments from the shop floor that centred on other important issues raised by the Bill, including access to sick leave allowances for new employees and the requirement on workers to provide proof of illness for their absence to their employer within three calendar days.

"We're urging retail employers to focus on their people above all else - it's essential for the short-term during the pandemic and financially pragmatic for their businesses in the longer term," said Ms Williams.

Other submitters on the Bill included representatives from Foodstuffs Ltd, a major supermarket franchise chain governed by a series of different Collective Agreements that offer different protections and entitlements to workers depending on which part of the country they live in and the particular attitudes of their local store owners.

"Some employers will fight any attempt to strengthen workers’ rights, and we must be wary of those who cry crocodile tears instinctively - many of their direst warnings about what the pandemic would mean for their bottom lines have not borne out, and many employers have profited greatly," said Ms Williams.

"We need less business self-interest and a more singular focus on laws that are fair to the essential workers who have held our society together during the pandemic - that in turn will benefit colleagues, customers and the wider community."

FIRST Union's written submission to the Education & Workforce Select Committee on the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill is attached.

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