Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood is braying about new labour legislation “bringing benefits to both businesses and employees” and “delivering on a key manifesto commitment to help Kiwis and workplaces stay healthy”.
Actually, employers are doing the delivering. If they don’t deliver, it is fair to suppose, they risk being prosecuted for breaking the law which – from today – doubles minimum sick leave entitlements from five to 10 days.
Mind you, as Wood, points out, employers benefit too:
“Having a healthy and well-rested workforce also helps businesses. Studies have suggested that people working while sick are 20 per cent less productive and the healthiest workers are up to three times more productive.”
On the other hand, not all workers will benefit. Sick leave is available ONLY after six months of continuous employment.
Similarly, not everyone stands to benefit from the government funding provided under the Jobs for Nature programme.
Conservation Minister Kiri Allen has announced $14.9 million Jobs for Nature funding is being invested in “several projects” which “will create much-needed jobs and financial security for families in TeTairāwhiti”.
Four projects, actually, and each of them is being led by local tribes. This suggests race was a significant factor in determining who got money and who didn’t.
As for the new jobs, the funding will generate 165 new jobs over three years, if everything goes to plan. This works out at around $90,000 per job.
Michael Wood’s press statement regarding sick leave raises questions about the sick-leave entitlements of the workers employed on the Jobs for Nature projects.
As RNZ reported, sick leave under the new law is only available after six months of continuous employment, meaning new employees and people on temporary contracts often face the choice of going to work unwell or going without pay.
This means they often face the choice of going to work unwell or going without pay.
Sure enough, the trade unions want further change and – just as surely – a government which enjoys significant trade union support is considering giving them what they demand.
The RNZ report says:
Council of Trade Unions secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges said everyone should be eligible for sick leave from their first day on the job.
She said it was important, not just for the employee, but for the whole workplace.
“The reality is, if you do not have access to sick leave and you are living pay cheque by pay cheque, if you get sick, you are probably still going to come to work because you can’t afford not to.
“Then everybody misses out when we spread colds and flu at this time of year, and Covid-19 is still a risk.”
But don’t worry, folks, if you miss out on the new sick leave entitlements.
The government is on the case:
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said the government was working on changes to allow employees to start accruing sick leave as soon as they began a new job.
“We are just taking a little bit of time to make sure that we get it right so that, when it is implemented, it can be implemented well and not have unforeseen circumstances.
“I do appreciate the argument about moving forward as quickly as possible but, in this case, we want to measure twice and cut once.”
Wood hoped legislation would be introduced to parliament early next year.
Latest from the Beehive
Legislation doubling employees’ minimum sick leave entitlement to 10 days comes into effect today.
“Our Government is delivering on a key manifesto commitment to help Kiwis and workplaces stay healthy,” Michael Wood said.
“COVID-19 has shown us how important it is to stay home when you’re sick. By giving people a minimum of 10 days sick leave, we’re helping them to do that and stop bugs from spreading.”
Employees will become eligible for the increased entitlement at different times over the next year, in line with their work anniversary dates. This makes it easier for the businesses that offer the minimum entitlement to implement the change – many already offer 10 days or more, and this will mean no change for them.
New employees will still be eligible for at least the minimum 10 days sick leave after six months in a job and the current maximum entitlement of any unused sick leave stays at 20 days annually.
As the tripartite Holidays Act Taskforce recommended, the government will make some sick leave available from an employee’s first day as part of further reforms to the Holidays Act.
“I expect to introduce legislation to make these additional changes next year,” Michael Wood said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa on her victory in the Samoa’s general election.
This is an historic moment for Samoan democracy, she said.
“New Zealand will continue to work side-by-side with Samoa to advance our shared interests, particularly through promoting prosperity, security, and sustainability in the Pacific as we recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Quarantine Free Travel from all Australian states and territories to New Zealand is being suspended as the Covid situation there worsens, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced yesterday.
From 11.59pmlast night, Australians no longer were able to enter New Zealand quarantine-free. This will be in place for at least the next eight weeks.
For the next seven days there will be managed return flights for New Zealanders from all states and territories that will require proof of a negative pre-departure test. Additionally, those who have been in NSW will still have to go into MIQ for 14 days. And those who have been in Victoria must self-isolate upon return and have a negative Day 3 test.
The Government is working closely with airlines to ensure there are flights available over this period, and extend it for a few days if necessary.
The decision to suspend travel follows updated public health advice from officials on the growing number of cases and locations of interest across Australia in recent days and weeks.
For more information, visit Unite Against COVID-19: https://covid19.govt.nz/travel/quarantine-free-travel/australia/
A big injection of Jobs for Nature funding will create much-needed jobs and financial security for families in TeTairāwhiti, and has exciting prospects for conservation in the region, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.
“The projects target local communities most affected by the economic consequences of COVID 19 and are designed to restore and protect a range of ecosystems as well as safeguard heritage sites with significant cultural value.
“They will create 165 new jobs over the next three years and provide fantastic training opportunities for those looking for pathways into a conservation career.”
The Government’s $14.9million will fund several projects which focus on waterway restoration through fencing and riparian planting, predator and pest control, re-establishment of native forest and indigenous species, ecological monitoring and data collection.
Others involve the creation of nature corridors connecting pockets of native bush to encourage native bird populations to expand into new areas.
They target local communities most affected by the economic consequences of COVID 19 and are designed to restore and protect a range of ecosystems as well as safeguard heritage sites with significant cultural value.
“Each initiative is Iwi-led and designed, enabling Iwi to bring their aspirations for their whenua and people to life while working with others in the community.”
This announcement follows another recent funding boost for conservation work in the region, with $1million from our Jobs for Nature Community and Private Land Biodiversity funds going towards projects to protect native species and restoring habitats.