Government should fix COVID-19 leave loophole before summer seasonal work starts

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Green Party Spokesperson for Workplace Relations Jan Logie is calling on the Government to extend the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme to anyone awaiting a COVID-19 test result, as more people start summer jobs without sick leave available to them.

“Currently the general public can’t access COVID-19 sick leave while waiting for test results unless they meet strict criteria linking them to a confirmed case or high risk workplace. That means most people rely on their sick leave balance to take time-off work while waiting for a test result,” said Jan Logie.

“This won’t work for the thousands of casual and seasonal workers starting new jobs over summer in industries like horticulture, retail and hospitality. They will have little to no annual or sick leave accrued to fall back on.

“Many seasonal workers who get sick over summer will be put in the position of choosing between paying the bills or taking unpaid leave to self-isolate while they await a COVID-19 test.

“The recent community case in Auckland involved a retail worker going to work while waiting for a COVID-19 test. The August Level 3 restrictions in Auckland were necessary as a result of community spread at a workplace.

“The absence of guaranteed, paid sick leave risks a repeat of this situation. It makes casual workers much more likely to ‘soldier on’ and turn up before their results come back.

“The Government does not need to pass new legislation to extend the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme. It’s a simple Cabinet decision that could happen before the House rises.

“While this would come at a small extra cost to Government, it would pale in comparison to the cost of community transmission and any heightened restrictions over summer,” said Jan Logie.

Note:

· The bill to extend general sick leave to ten days has been introduced in the house, and is set to pass next year.

· Jan Logie put questions to the Minister on this issue in the house, and can be found here: https://vimeo.com/486221128

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