“Unworkable” sick leave proposal hides much worse employment law changes

Posted By TEU on Aug 12, 2010 |

The CTU President Helen Kelly today told staff and students at Otago University not to be surprised if the Government’s proposal to allow employers to request a doctor’s note for any day of sickness is withdrawn or amended.

“This proposal is so unworkable that it is probable the Government has thrown it into a package of very real and serious reductions in work rights so that it can withdraw it and look moderate later,” Helen Kelly proposed.

She said that the government has successfully used such tactics before. While the sick leave proposal, if implemented, will cause real hardship for workers when they or their children are unwell, it could be a distraction intended to hide the harsh reality of the other changes proposed.

“The proposal to remove the right to appeal unfair dismissal in the first 90 days, and others such as removing the primary remedy of reinstatement for unfair dismissal, will have extreme effects on employment security and fairness at work,” said Ms Kelly. “The proposal to reduce the right of workers to access their union at work is intended to reduce pay and conditions, just as it did in the 1990s.”

“John Key has developed a political tactic of announcing policy changes which often include a real clanger, such as this sick leave requirement, to give him room to move later and look like the reasonable politician. These back-downs are then used to disguise the seriousness of what is actually implemented.”

The current law on sick leave states that the employer can already require a doctor’s certificate for absence of even one or two days provided they have reasonable grounds for believing any sickness is not genuine. The Government’s current proposal is to remove the requirement for the employer to be reasonable in such circumstances.

Kelly cited examples such as the ACC motor bike levy, which initially was hiked to a punitive level before a smaller increase was implemented after protests. The proposal to mine Schedule 4 conservation land was similarly ditched after public outcry, while increased prospecting was still allowed in other parts of the conservation estate.

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