Constructive work on holidays

The SST report:

WORKERS WILL be allowed to swap one week of their holidays for cash from next year.

The government will introduce legislation early in 2010, despite opposition from unions who see it as a move to rewind the Labour government’s law change two years ago, which increased the minimum annual leave entitlement for fulltime workers from three to four weeks.

This was of course election policy. It also may not mean great change for some people as if you do not take all your annual leave, and leave your job, it gets paid out to you anyway. Also it gives an employee the right to sto an employer closing the business for four weeks over summer, and forcing them to take four weeks leave then. They can now only be forced to tale three weeks leave, and get the fourth paid out as extra salary.

The government will also legislate to standardise the rate at which leave is calculated. There will be a single rate of pay for all leave whether annual, sick, bereavement or public. …

Wilkinson said the only workers who would be worse off under the changes were those who engaged in “gaming” the system; for example, by manipulating their work hours to maximise their pay while on leave.

Under current law, holiday payments factor in penal rates in the four weeks before the holiday. An employee could exploit that by working considerable overtime before going on leave.

Seems sensible, and much much easier administratively.

Wilkinson said the review was needed because the current system was so complex and confusing that even the courts had trouble determining disputes between employers and employees over rates of pay for leave.

“We are not reducing entitlements. We think the new formula for relevant daily pay will be easier to calculate. We also think it will be fairer to employees and employers and prevent the `gaming’ of relevant daily pay calculations.”

I suspect very few employers apply the law absolutely correctly because it is so difficult to understand. Most just pay leave at the normal rate anyway I suspect.

Helen Kelly, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and a member of the review panel, was worried the government would allow bosses to transfer days in lieu and public holidays to avoid paying double time.

Although she was happy with the proposals as they stood, she was concerned that the final legislation could go further than the report, leaving workers worse off.

“There should be a condition [in the legislation] that the reason for transferring is not to avoid paying time-and-a-half.”

Nice to see a constructive approach by the CTU. They will of course be against the cashing in a weeks leave, but pleased to see not against the other changes necessarily.

Some workers spoken to by the Star-Times were pleased to hear of the law change, saying they would be keen to cash in their leave. Others though, would not. “Hell no, I don’t need the money…I would rather take the break from work,” said one.

And now they will have the choice, so both camps can be happy. Different employees have different needs. Those with kids probably love having a 4th week leave. Those without kids are more likely to love being able to earn some extra money by only taking three weeks. And there are also those in positions who find it hell to take too long a break, as the work piles up so much in their absence. So not treating all employees as wanting the same thing is good.

Among the 241 submissions was a call for March 18 to become a public holiday. Wilkinson said she was “amused” at the suggestion but was not interested in “legislating for behaviour that condones hangovers or the over-indulgence of alcohol”. March 17 is St Patrick’s Day.


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