Media Release: EXTENSION OF SICK LEAVE GOOD AND BAD FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

February 25, 2021 11:10 am

The Government’s mandatory ten-day sick leave is both a challenge and support for rural communities says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“Today, RWNZ asked Parliament at the Education and Workforce Select Committee to reconcile the need to understand how we support improved health and mental wellbeing in rural communities, with the challenges that mandatory ten days sick leave presents to rural businesses,” says Board Member and Social Issues Convenor, Sharron Davie-Martin.

“Whilst ten days sick leave is great for employees, it will also be challenging for some rural employers, and so it is important for Parliament to consider both elements to understand any adverse effects on rural communities if this is made mandatory.

“RWNZ largely agrees with supporting staff and empowering them to take care of their health, however, there is also concern about how the work is covered when staff are on sick leave, which is unplanned as it is often taken on the day of feeling ill,  as opposed to annual leave which is planned.

“There is a shortage of skilled rural workers in New Zealand and if an employee falls sick, there is often not someone available to call on and it is often a family member called upon to fill the gap.

“It’s not a case of, ‘well the work just won’t get done’ because the work often involves animals reliant on human guardianship – hungry calves can’t wait until the staff member is back from sick leave.

“The challenges for small rural service providers is similar – staff on sick leave will simply mean the work is not done, which not only inconveniences the rural businesses relying on those services, it also means a drop in much needed income for the provider of those services in these tough times.

“RWNZ understands completely that extending sick leave will support those the health challenges, however we have some reservations of the impact on some rural businesses of this legislation.

“RWNZ called on the Select Committee to ensure that both a gender and rural impact analyses are done on this legislation so that any adverse impact on rural businesses is alleviated whilst supporting the well-being of rural communities.

“We look forward to a great outcome for New Zealand’s rural communities,” says Ms Davie-Martin.

ENDS

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Angela McLeod on 027 497 2761

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