Employee sick days are about to double: Here's what this means for you

Employees will soon be able to take an extra five days of sick leave per year with the current five-day entitlement set to double.

Under the Holidays Increasing Sick Leave Amendment Bill, which passed its final reading on May 19, employee paid sick leave will increase to 10 days per year from July 24.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) manager employment standards Chris Hubscher says for those who need it, an extra five day's paid leave will help keep bugs at bay.

"A 10-day entitlement takes the pressure off employees, especially those who also have to care for dependents," Hubscher says.

And although the increase to minimum sick leave comes at a cost to employers, particularly small businesses more reliant on cash flow, a spokesperson for accounting software company Xero said there's also a benefit.

"Healthier employees are happier, more productive employees. When it comes to physical and mental wellbeing, putting this first can dramatically improve a business's overall productivity," the spokesperson said.

To help employees understand what they're entitled to under the new sick leave provisions before July 24, Newshub asked MBIE for a refresher on the rules.

1. When do the 10 days' annual sick leave start?

From July 24, the minimum amount of paid sick leave available to New Zealand employees will be 10 days per year.

MBIE confirms employees are able to take up to 10 days' sick leave after six months working for their employer, or from their next 'entitlement date'.

"Your entitlement date is the 12-month anniversary of when you last became entitled to sick leave," Hubscher says.

He adds that some companies may allow employees who are sick from July 24 to take up to 10 days' sick leave immediately. And some companies already provide sick leave of 10 days or more - if this is the case, there's no change.

"Employees who already receive an entitlement to 10 or more sick leave days a year will not be affected by the change," Hubscher adds.

2. I work part-time - am I still entitled to 10 days' sick leave?

Yes, MBIE confirms from July 24, all employees, including part-timers, are entitled to the same minimum amount of sick leave.

As explained in question one, they're entitled to receive sick leave after working for their employer for six months, their next entitlement date (or earlier if provided by their employer).

3. If I'm off work sick, do I need to provide a doctor's certificate?  

Employees who call in sick may be asked to provide a doctor's certificate, which MBIE says is within an employer's rights.

But depending on the amount of sick leave taken, there are set rules around who pays for it.

"An employer can ask for a doctor's certificate after an employee has been sick or injured for three consecutive days," Hubscher said.

If an employee has been off work for less than three consecutive days and their employer asks for a doctor's certificate, "the employer must cover the cost of getting the certificate".

4. How many sick days can be accrued?

MBIE confirms that if sick leave is unused, the 10 days of leave can carry over to a "maximum of 20 days" in a given year.

5. Can sick leave be paid out when I leave employment?

No, unlike annual leave, MBIE confirms sick leave isn't paid out when leaving an employer.

More information about sick leave is available on the MBIE website.