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Proposed increase of paid sick leave in 2021 – what’s your view?

Proposed increase of paid sick leave in 2021 - Intepeople Nelson NZ

Welcome to 2021! It will be interesting to see what changes are planned relating to employment terms and conditions now that Labour has the majority in Parliament to implement whatever they want without having to convince coalition partners. First cab off the rank this year is the proposed increase of paid sick leave from five to 10 days per year for all employees.

The government called for submissions on the proposed change and Intepeople has taken the opportunity to give them our views.  We did not oppose the increase – we feel that will definitely go ahead so was not worth commenting on.

However, we have some concerns about the detail.

Our views on the proposed increase of paid sick leave in 2021

Minimum paid sick leave at five days (the current law) applies to everyone, even if they only work one day a week, i.e. there is no pro-rating.

The draft of the new legislation does not address this issue, i.e. the 10 days would apply to everyone regardless of how many days per week they work. So, a part-time employee who works one day per week (say, every Wednesday) would be entitled to more paid sick leave each year than annual leave, which seems perverse and unintended.

Our submission suggested that this leave should be proportional to the number of days worked per week.

For example, if someone works three days per week, we think they should get six days of sick leave per year, not 10.

If the government changes their mind on that, maybe we can take the credit? Seriously, lots of employers we speak to have expressed similar concerns so we hope that will be changed before the law comes into force, probably mid-year. We will keep you posted.

Tell us, what are your thoughts on the proposed increase of paid sick leave in 2021?


Written by Marianne Wilkinson, HR Partner.

  1. Vincent Pooch Reply

    Should be able to accumulate sick leave. This also is a surprising omission which needs fixing. Thus would encourage long term tenure and respects those who need a large chunk of time off for a major operation; which is more likely as staff get older. Also, with 10 days non cumulative there is the perverse incentive to just take more sick days as they are lost forever. This would reduce national productivity; right at a time when we do not have an abundance of workers to fill roles anyway.
    It should also be noted that the counterfactual, taking more sick days will lift productivity, lacks evidence as far as I am aware.

    • Julie Baxendine Reply

      Thanks for your feedback Vincent. The current 20 day maximum accumulation of sick leave is unchanged in the draft legislation. In terms of productivity, we think the argument around increased productivity is that while one person may have more absences than previously, if they are not coming into work when they are sick then they are not making other people sick so a potential gain. We will have to wait and see how it all pans out!

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