Govt pushes ahead with pre-election promise to double employees' sick leave to 10 days/year; Maximum unused sick leave that can be carried over to remain at 20 days/year

Govt pushes ahead with pre-election promise to double employees' sick leave to 10 days/year; Maximum unused sick leave that can be carried over to remain at 20 days/year
Image sourced from pxhere.

The government is introducing a bill to parliament that seeks to increase employees’ sick leave entitlements from five to 10 days a year.

The Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill will give workers more scope to stay at home when they’re sick. It will also support working parents.

Under the Bill employees will receive their increased entitlement depending on when they started their job.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood said this will give employers time to prepare for the change.

Under the Bill the most amount of unused sick leave an employee can carry over will remain 20 days a year.

Wood expected the gross cost of the change to be equivalent to 0.9% of annual wage/salary costs.

“As promised, we’ve introduced the Bill before Christmas and it will go through a full Select Committee process,” Wood said.

The Bill is expected to pass in mid-2021 with any changes coming into force two months after royal assent.

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So should we expect even lower productivity statistics?

According to the timing of this, some people wouldn't get the additional leave until some point in 2022.

If my maths are right, this addition would make it 40 days of paid leave per annum (20 annual, 10 sick, 10 stats) = that's 8 (5 day) weeks = or 15% of the (5 day/week) work year.

I wonder if productivity would improve if instead they allowed people to convert all that to a 4-day work week with no leave entitlements?

Unfortunately most employers think you work harder the longer you're in the office. 4 days work and you'd be lazy.

Unilever would say otherwise

Sick days are not leave, they are taken when people are sick just because you have them doesn't mean you take them. If you have a problem with people taking sick leave as a day off, require and pay for a doctors certificate. I am currently sitting on 200 hours of sick leave and I take about 1 or 2 days a year even though I already get 10 days sick leave a year. I used to have unlimited sick leave, I didn't take any more sick leave than I do now. 5 days can be 1 bout of flu.

As for you calculation why not include nights, and weekends in that as well that way you can say that about 79% of the time not spent working. The fact is most of that is actually spent doing activities needed for work: sleep, travel, eating, maintaining a place to live, why aren't people paid for that? 2 weeks is not an excessive amount of time off especially if you want them to stay home at the slightest sign of an illness.

Some countries with the highest productivity figures like Germany have 20 days per year. I would think it would be hard to find any numbers that show conclusively that productivity is related to shorter sick leave entitlements.

Maybe Germans only take sick days when they are sick?

They are high trust

Here is Germany's policy;

German law requires that employees be paid 100 percent of their salary or wages by their employer during the first six weeks of sickness... After that time a (State paid) sickness allowance amounts to 70% of an employee's normal pay. The maximum period for payment of this allowance is 78 weeks.

A doctor's note is required for any periods of consecutive sick leave beyond 3 days.

Also note the normal work week is 6 days (48 hours).

I have no idea where the 48 hour work week figure comes from. Most German full-time jobs are 40 hours per week.

It's outlined in the above link. Not to say that is the common implementation of the labour market, but it seems to be the regulatory maximum.

Faulty logic - you're comparing apples with bicycles... they're not even close

From a productivity standpoint NZ and Germany operate very very differently,
Germany invests heavily in automation and technology so their production is naturally going to be higher than similar manual labour-based activities (which is what most of NZ still operates in)

We are a small country with a small population and do not have the same market scale in every industry to warrant such investments across the board to increase productivity

Many developed European countries with higher productivity stats have much longer sick leave available.

Perhaps, but its likely to be enabled by higher productivity allowing more generous conditions, the sick leave is not generating higher productivity. In a low productivity environment, where are the improvements to be made?

Where are you stats to prove NZ is a low productivity environment?

Productivity has been increasing for decades, and not in line with wages. It has also been proven to increase particularly in relation to office work the less people work eg 4 day work week etc. This would only bring NZ into alinement with Australian statutory leave as far as I can see though it would be slightly better since the sick leave allowance does carry over.

Interesting perspective on productivity in NZ being kept artificially low due to historic reliance on migrants:

In some industries it's hard enough for people take 5 days, can't imagine them being able to claim 10 days even if they're entitled.

As an educationalist I can only agree.


A good move. 5 days is ridiculous.

Yes, maybe people who are sick will actually stay at home and give the rest of us a chance to avoid falling like dominoes. If so, then there's your productivity saving.

I would like to see it accrue like annual leave based on hours worked, rather than getting a pile of sick leave once a year.

Also would be nice to be able to carry some over if you change jobs. Moves like that to encourage labour mobility should increase productivity as labour can move to where it is most effective.

The new employer shouldn't have to suffer from you saving all your sick days at a prior job.

Pardon me for not being able to time my sickness around when I change jobs.

So what about workers who do 4 days a week? Do they still get 10 days sick leave?, or what about 2 day workers? or shift workers doing less but longer shifts?

This government has got a 40 hour monday to friday mindset, and that isn't how the country operates any more. Payroll legislation is forcing businesses to calculate leave in days not hours, so this will end up being a minefield.

All in all, its pretty easy for the government to give away others money yet again, in this case its not even taxed away from you for redistribution.

I don't agree with this policy. there is no real justification for it

Businesses have already had revenue smashed with COVID and some have outright failed, wiping away years of work to build it in the first place - employees got the wage relief while businesses had very limited or no relief while they had no revenue and expenses still came in
This is just another idealistic law that imposes social benefits to the masses that others have to pay for

It used to be 3 weeks per year leave and 5 days sick leave ~ 4 weeks total, now it's increased to 4 weeks leave and 10 days leave so potentially 6 weeks, basically adding a potential 50% more time off?!

There has to be more of a balance between the needs of businesses and the needs of employees. Businesses have had it tough, but so have many employees. It's not idealistic, its pragmatic - people get sick and when they do they need to take time off work and be paid for it. The engines of our economy still require money to circulate, and you can't spend what you don't have.

Just to put things into perspective - 10 days of sick leave is less than 3% of the year, or just under 4% if you're only counting 261 weekdays. The reality is that most of us don't take sick leave days if we don't need to - it's a bit of an old reference, but the average is 3.1 days:

But if you add 10 sick leave entitlement (and yes, many people do not need/take that full entitlement) + 20 annual leave days + 10 statutory holidays - it adds up to 15% (40/260). And not forgetting that many workers do not get the actual stat days off, and hence are paid at a higher than normal hourly rate.

Given we are a much more ethnically diverse community, I do wonder about statutory holidays - particularly the Christian religious based ones. I just don't think the Government has ever looked at this progressively - nor from a productivity perspective. Every year my organisation sends out a message about wanting to get annual leave balances down for accounting purposes. Why can't those that want to take their year-end balance in payment, rather than in rollover, or 'forced' leave when they don't want it? Same goes for stat holidays.

Or perhaps, move to a regular four-day week and sick leave at their own 'risk'. For usually healthy people that is likely a better policy/option.

Make no mistake...the employees who don't get sick are the ones who pay for this. No one else..the employer factors it into wages (non existent rise).

If you don't take sick leave, you are subsiding the Monday hang-over brigade.

Which in 2016 at least, is 3% of us. This is the same link to the one I've posted above: