Unite Union concerned about sick staff working as COVID-19 restrictions end

A workers union is raising concerns with the Government's decision to remove all COVID-19 restrictions.

Unite Union thinks workers might feel pressured to continue working when sick because from Tuesday, if you get COVID-19, you'll have to use your sick leave to isolate.

But now there's no requirement to isolate at all.

Just as we did when we moved to alert level 1 in 2020, plenty of people would have been celebrating Monday's announcement.

"The formal end of what was a uniquely challenging time for the country and of course for the rest of the world," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday.

But not everyone was happy to see the last of our pandemic restrictions go.  

"Oh look, I'm disappointed. [I] knew it was coming but was really hoping we'd keep those protections in place at least a little longer," said microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

She worries a decision like the one taken Monday might come back to bite us.

"When we start to roll back protections, they're very hard to bring back in place when we need them," Dr Wiles told Newshub.

From Tuesday, all COVID-19 requirements are gone.

They have been replaced with recommendations, including a five-day isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19.

And now, like any other illness, you'll likely have to use your sick leave - for which most employees are entitled to 10 days each year.

If you've got no sick leave left, the Ministry in charge says it's up to you to work it out with your employer.

"We think it's disappointing, we know that a lot of workers, particularly hospitality workers, are going to come under a lot of pressure," said John Crocker, Unite Union's national secretary.

Employees will no doubt face pressure to work while sick - because the COVID-19 leave support scheme is now gone too - which helped employers pay their workers who had to self-isolate.

"Now it kinda means sick leave is going to have to soak up everything else… flu, kids getting sick, we're not sure the 10 days is enough," Crocker told Newshub.

"If you run out of sick leave, or you run out of annual leave, people are going to go back to work and that's going to mean transmission within the workplace," Dr Wiles said.

Workplaces that will now have to navigate the next phase of COVID-19.