Election 2023: Christopher Luxon says National will keep 10 days sick leave if elected, bring back 90-day trials

Christopher Luxon says National will not reduce the number of sick days employees legally get if his party is elected. 

Luxon was speaking about his party's tax policy, which will be released on Wednesday when he was asked what employment changes he would make. 

The National leader said on Tuesday his party would bring back 90-day trial periods and scrap Labour's fair pay agreements.

"We will bring back 90-day trials. We think that is a good way for an employer to take on an employee, especially when we have 55,000 more New Zealanders on the unemployment benefit today, at a time of record low unemployment and also lots of worker shortages."

But Luxon said he wouldn't get rid of the 10 days of sick leave which was increased from five by Labour in 2021.

"It is what it is now and it's passed and we won't be changing it now," Luxon told reporters. 

In 2021, the Government made several changes to the sick leave law. The changes meant eligible employees could accumulate paid sick leave from their first day of employment, rather than wait six months before they are entitled to it.

The changes were recommended by the Holidays Act Taskforce and the Government accepted the recommendations in February 2021.

In July 2021, the number of sick leave days also doubled from five to 10 days under the Holidays Increasing Sick Leave Amendment Bill.

National wasn't supportive of the changes at the time with workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson saying an economic crisis wasn't the time to pile extra costs on businesses.

"Doubling sick leave just piles more costs onto business at a time when they can least afford it, coming on top of minimum wage increases and the proposal for an extra public holiday," Simpson said.

But the move was welcomed by unions at the time, including New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff.

"Working people successfully campaigned for this improvement to paid sick leave. Working people need to be able to stay away from work when they are sick without penalty," Wagstaff said in 2021. 

"The extension from 5 to 10 days sick leave will significantly help people do just that.

"COVID-19 has proven to us all how important it is to stay home when we are unwell, not just for the individual, but for the workplace and the wider community. 

"Increasing sick leave means that collectively we are all better able to combat contagious illness. This is how it should be."

The increase was also celebrated by The New Zealand Public Services Association, with national security Kerry Davies saying it would make a huge difference for thousands of people. 

"This will also make a big difference to parents and those who care for whānau, who need to take leave when their dependents are sick. Being able to take sick leave, rather than annual leave, means people can use annual leave for its intended purpose - rest, relaxation and recuperation."