Labour promises 10 days' sick leave, simplified Holidays Act

Andrew Little.
Andrew Little. Photo credit: Getty

Labour will give New Zealand workers 10 sick days a year if re-elected, up from the current five.

It's part of the party's workplace relations policy, announced on Saturday which includes increasing the minimum wage, working towards pay equity, strengthening employment legislation and creating better protection for vulnerable workers.

"Workers play a key role in getting our economy moving," Labour's workplace relations and safety spokesperson Andrew Little said. "We cannot grow successful businesses without a strong and thriving workforce."

Sick leave increase

Currently, full-time and part-time employees are eligible for five days of paid sick leave a year after working continuously for an employer for six months.

But this has been under the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Government urging sick Kiwis to stay home if displaying any level of sickness.

Around 35 percent of people typically come into work despite being sick, Labour said.

"Managing COVID-19 has shown, more than ever, how important it is for workers to be able to stay home if they are sick," Little said.

"That's why we are expanding sick leave entitlements from five days to ten days a year. This will mean people can stay at home if they are unwell and will also provide support and flexibility for working parents."

Workers who already get 10 or more sick days a year as per their contract will not be affected by the policy change.

If re-elected, Labour said it intends to pass legislation to extend sick leave within the first 100 days.


More than 85,000 Kiwis could be in for a pay rise, with Labour planning raise New Zealand's minimum wage. 

During the coalition Government's first term, it went up from $15.75 to $18.90. If re-elected, Labour plans to raise it to $20 per hour in 2021.

Little said it is "time to leave behind New Zealand's low-wage culture".

"Investing in our people needs to be a key part of our economic recovery from COVID-19. We want a productive and highly skilled workforce where everyone shares in the benefits of economic growth."

As well as this, Labour also plans to require all public service contracted security guards, cleaners and caterers to be paid the Living Wage, which is currently $22.10 per hour.

They also plan to make it easier for women to gain pay equity by improving transparency and making sure there are better records of pay equity, including by ethnicity, age and gender.

Fair pay agreements

Labour said New Zealand lacks sector-wide bargaining which allows employers to "undercut" each other by offering low wages in a "race to the bottom".

Labour plans to implement fair pay agreements and set minimum terms and conditions of employment for all workers in an industry or occupation.

Strengthen key employment legislation

Labour also plans to simplify the Holidays Act, saying there is currently a lack of guidance on how it works, poor implementation by payroll systems and a lack of transparency in holiday pay calculations.

If re-elected Labour would simplify the calculations, allow employees to take leave even if they haven't been with an employer for six months and allow employees to take bereavement leave and family violence leave as needed.

Labour also plans to strengthen the Employment Relations Act to make it harder for collective agreements to be undermined.

Protect vulnerable workers

As part of the Workplace Relations Policy, Labour said it will work with unions and employers to ensure dependent contractors can bargain collectively, require written contracts for employment and introduce a duty of good faith between contracting parties.

It also plans to recognise security guards as vulnerable workers and raise the age for workers allowed to perform hazardous work from 15 to 16.