With the New Zealand government asking Kiwi’s to self-isolate, and the threat of infection from COVID-19 plus the usual range of winter illnesses, most businesses will see a rise in the amount of sick leave being taken.
When can you take sick leave? How will the government’s recently announced economic policies impact you? Here’s what you need to know.
When will sick leave apply?
As with any other form of sickness, the sick-leave provisions of your employment agreement will apply when you are sick and unable to work, your children or partner are sick and require your care, or another dependent requires your care when they are sick.
So, if either you or one of your dependents are unwell with COVID-19 or sick from symptoms, then in all likelihood you will be able to rely on the sick-leave entitlements within your employment agreement.
How much sick leave will I get?
Every employment agreement is unique. The package and entitlements that you have negotiated may vary from what others have negotiated. However, there are statutory minimum entitlements which are: Following six-months of continuous employment, a minimum of 5-days paid sick-leave per 12-month period, with a maximum accumulation of 20-days.
How much sick leave will employees get?
Every employment agreement is unique. Packages and entitlements may vary from employee to employee. However, there are statutory minimum entitlements which are: Following six-months of continuous employment, a minimum of 5-days paid sick-leave per 12-month period, with a maximum accumulation of 20-days.
Does my employer have to pay for my sick leave?
With regard to sick leave for the reasons explained above, then, ordinarily the employer would have to pay within the limits of the terms in the employment agreement. However, if the employer is suspicious that the sickness is not genuine and the provisions are being abused (bad faith), then, they may require the employee to produce evidence of sickness.
Given that the instructions from the Ministry of Health with regard to COVID-19 are to specifically avoid going to see a health professional, then, it would be wise to make a detailed note of any Healthline calls placed, such as time and date, and an outline of discussion, as this may be all that is able to be provided to support the claim for sick-leave.
What about self-isolation and getting sick leave?
Self-isolation as a precaution when you are otherwise well means you’re unlikely to get sick leave, for the simple reason that you are not sick. Sick leave is for instances of sickness, and not for precautionary measures before sickness.
While this situation is rapidly changing, you may want to explore alternative options and iron out the practicalities around working from home before it’s necessary. Making solid preparations to work remotely now could be very useful.
It may also be useful to have discussions with your employees around advance sick-leave, agreed use of annual leave, holiday pay, or special leave, or any other options that will enable the employee to avoid financial pressure from self-isolating on unpaid leave.
While taking precautionary measures when nobody is actually sick, it’s ultimately at your discretion as to whether you provide continued income to the employee under another category of leave.
Having conversations with your employees is key. If either of you are struggling, it’s essential to communicate with the other party to avoid misunderstandings and to assist in the early resolution of problems.
Government assistance and COVID-19
The Government has released an assistance package to help employers and employees “get through” the financial consequences of COVID-19.
The financial assistance package relating to wage and leave support is being administered by Work and Income. In most instances a weekly payment is available for a limited period, typically paid to employers to “pass-on” to their affected employees.
To help with the issue of “self-isolation”, the Government has confirmed that they are making a weekly payment available to those who are required to self-isolate, in circumstances where they are unable to work from home – in essence providing cover where the employee would otherwise be self-isolating on unpaid leave.
The application forms are relatively straightforward and can be found on the Work and Income website here.
We’re here to help
In times of difficulty it can be an unfortunate result that employment relationships breakdown for one reason or another. At Godfreys Law we have a team of employment law specialists, experienced with assisting both employers and employees to work through and resolve employment disputes.
We can work with you at the appropriate level to achieve the best resolutions, either by communication and planning assistance, formal correspondence, mediation attendance or appearance in the Employment Relations Authority.