NZ Election 2020: Giving workers more sick leave 'bit of a stretch' - National's Gerry Brownlee

National's not interested in giving workers more sick leave, saying it "shouldn't be on the table" as unemployment rises.

Labour is expected to announce a policy of extending sick leave beyond the current minimum of five days.

"It's something we are discussing at the moment," Labour MP and Employment Minister Willie Jackson told Newshub last week. "Extra five days is the view at the moment." 

The importance of staying away from work when sick has never been clearer this year, with the world ravaged by a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 people already. 

"It's really easy as a parent, for example, to use that up [sick leave] really quickly," Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said. 

Many people come into work when sick as they don't have any leave left, passing illnesses to their colleagues and resulting in more people taking time off.

But National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee on Sunday told Magic Talk's Road to the Election they won't be giving people more time off. 

"You want employment conditions progressively getting better for people - and that has been the history, you know, the 40 hour week - but you know, at the moment that shouldn't be on the table." 

He said with unemployment set to rise over the next few months, now's not the time to be adding potential costs on for employers. 

"An employer taking someone on is going to have to provide for more sick days. No one's lacking compassion, but I think at the moment that's a bit of a stretch." 

Gerry Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee. Photo credit: Reuters

Some employers in the past have reported staff taking fewer days off when given unlimited sick leave. People with five days a year tend to use them all, a 2018 found.

"If you give people five days or if you give people 10 days, they tend to use that as an entitlement," ANZ spokesperson Gina McJorrow told Stuff in 2018

ANZ at the time offered unlimited sick leave.

"In our experience, because we provide flexibility, when employees are well, they're at work."

Labour's Grant Robertson refused to confirm Labour's intentions.

"This is an issue that's being debated around the world... particularly in the context of COVID," he told Road to the Election.

"We'll have more to say about all sorts of policies through the campaign, but I'm not going to give you that exclusive today. I'm not going to go there."