Changes to sick leave entitlements

As has been anticipated, there are some proposed changes to the Holidays Act 1993 (“the Act”) that are expected to come into effect later this year. The changes look to double the minimum number of sick days available to employees from 5 to 10 days per annum, after they have worked with an employer for six months.

The Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill (“the Bill”) is currently before the Select Committee of the New Zealand Parliament and is under review. As part of their review, they will be gathering information and opinions from a range of sources, including the public, as to the positive and negative impact of the Bill before preparing a report to go before Parliament.

The Bill does not propose wide ranging or expansive changes, but primarily seeks to provide a further five days sick leave to all employees, subject to them qualifying for full sick leave entitlements under their existing conditions of employment. This will come into effect two months from receiving royal assent. However, employees will only be able to utilise the further sick leave as from their next sick leave entitlement date (subject to start dates of employment) following the Bill receiving royal assent. This means, for employees who have worked for less than six months, this will be on the six-month anniversary date of their employment contract, or for employees who have worked longer than six months, when they reach the anniversary of the first time they completed six months.

The changes are brought on primarily in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, however, the request for changes to the minimum numbers of sick days has long been a topic of public interest and is reflective of a call for greater care and treatment for workers. This is highlighted by New Zealand having comparatively less sick leave days than many other OECD nations.

Despite the changes to the Act, there will be no changes to an employee’s entitlement to roll-over their sick leave each year. The maximum amount of sick leave an employee can hold unused is 20 days.

Keep an eye out for the changes later on this year when the Bill is expected to come into effect and ensure your employer is aware of the changes moving forward.

If you have any queries as to your entitlements under the Bill or the Act, please feel free to contact our team for further advice.