A petition signed by more than 10,000 individuals calling for safer sick leave has been presented to Parliament.
A group of essential workers handed over the petition to Minister of Workplace Relations Andrew Little on Tuesday, September 1.
Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff says increasing the legal minimum of sick leave from five days to 10 days a year is a basic issue of safety.
'Ensuring that people are well at work is simply the right thing to do. Having safer sick leave is essential.
'COVID-19 has really focused all our minds on the importance of staying home when you are sick.”
But he says the current reality of a legal minimum of five days sick leave is unrealistic in achieving the goal of people staying away from work if they are unwell.
Nurse and New Zealand Nurses Organisation member Erin Kennedy knows how bad the consequences can be.
'As a nurse, I work with sick people everyday. People that have serious health conditions, people who are vulnerable to really serious consequences if they get sick.
'It is for them that I support safer sick leave. When people are sick they need to rest and get better, they need to stay away from their work places and spreading germs further.
'When sick people stay home they protect everyone else from their germs; they keep us all safe. But the reality is that when people don't have enough sick leave they go to work sick, rather than stay home and miss out on a days pay,” she says.
Little told RNZ sick leave entitlement was an important conversation for Parliament to be having.
He says COVID-19 had shown how vital the essential workforce was, but it had also exposed shortcomings in some employment arrangements.
"I think it is timely to now ask questions about do our laws go far enough, do those basic minimum protections for workers in the face of a health crisis go far enough? This petition does that so it will be fertile ground for Parliament to consider.
He says the Labour Party would announce its policy on sick leave in the coming weeks.
The 5 issues raised in the petition:
1. Extend the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme for the next year, make it easy to access, and cover anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, including those who are waiting to be referred to testing or getting results.
2. Increase legal minimum paid sick leave from 5 to 10 days over the next year – with support from the government to help small businesses make the change.
3. Make sick leave available if people need to care for their dependents like their children and their parents.
4. Remove the 6-month stand down to access sick leave when you start a new job.
5. Get rid of the previous National Government's law change that can require a doctor's certificate after just one day of sick leave.