ACT denounces Labour's sick leave increase after new short-term absence payment

ACT leader David Seymour says he welcomes the Government's new COVID-19 payment allowing workers to isolate at home, but says it proves the previous sick leave extension was a "$1 billion bribe".

Starting Tuesday the Government will provide the 'short-term absence payment' (STAP). Employers can receive a $350 payment if their employees cannot work from home while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.

Labour also promised to double sick leave during the election campaign and a Bill is expected to pass in mid-2021. The Government has stepped in to fill the immediate void of limited sick leave with the COVID leave support scheme which ensures those who have had a coronavirus test and need to self-isolate can still get paid.

But Seymour says the short-term payment - which ACT advocated for last year - is "far too late", and proves the extended sick leave provisions were not about COVID-19.

"The Government cynically used COVID-19 as an excuse to implement an ideological goal, when the real solution was right before them all along," he says in a statement.

"Labour argued during the election campaign that the extension of sick leave to 10 days was essential so workers could stay home if necessary.

"Now Labour has established a short-term absence payment. So why not use it, instead of extending sick leave for all workers?

"Labour should front up and admit that extending sick leave for all workers was a $1 billion bribe."

What does the Government say?

Minister for Workplace Relations Michael Wood says the new payment will help businesses do their part to keep New Zealanders safe.

"STAP complements the existing COVID-19 leave support scheme to support businesses when they have employees at risk of spreading infection," he says in a statement.

"The STAP can be used to cover the cost of a worker's sick leave for those who are feeling unwell and is also available to enable businesses to continue to pay workers who aren't eligible for sick leave or don't have any sick leave left. This helps everyone stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Increasing the minimum entitlement of sick leave to 10 days and giving employers a helping hand throughout the pandemic shows our balanced approach."

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