Whanau leave

The SST reports:

CHUCKING SICKIES could be a thing of the past if the Service and Food Workers’ Union’s call for “whanau leave” to give people time off work to care for dependants is adopted.

But we already have whanau leave. S65(1) of the Holidays Act states can be used for you, your partner or dependents.

Massey University Albany psychology lecturer Dianne Gardiner said the idea should be adopted because the law does not reflect the realities of life, including looking after sick children and parents.

I think the lecturer should read the Holidays Act.

While countries such as Japan and Australia provide 10 days for personal sickness, bereavement or to care for dependants, New Zealand legislates for just five, which have to include any time off to care for family.

Now this is a different issue. This is about the quantity of leave available, which is different from whether one can use sick leave for family members – which is currently allowed.

The union’s northern regional secretary Jill Ovens said her 23,000 members were this week expected to ratify a clause calling for five whanau leave and 10 sick days, on which the union would campaign.

She said the statutory minimum is inadequate because people could easily use five days on dependants and have nothing for themselves. “Even with 10 days a year, it’s quite difficult to manage if you’ve got children or elderly dependants. A lot of people who are still working have elderly parents.”

I have some agreement with the union, in that the legislative minimum of five days is rather low. In fact I don’t think I know of an employer who doesn’t provide for at least ten. I would be open to persuasion that the minimum should be 10.

Going beyond 10 (which is around one day in 20) would be going too far in the other direction I think. Some employees do see sick leave as a target, not a safety net, and maximise their sick leave. Many employers do react with compassion to someone who is genuinely sick for longer than 10 days a year, and don’t force them to start taking annual or unpaid leave, even though they could.

Businesses need staff working, in order to make money. Aready of the 250 “work days” a year, staff get 11 days of public holidays, 20 days of annual leave and normally ten days of sick leave.  That averages out to a worker not being at work one day in six (on top of weekends).

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