Employers of Aotearoa, the news is good - sick leave is pretty simple! There's a clear set of rules and not a lot of variation.
Employees get 5 days a year, and it's paid at their “relevant” daily pay – in other words, what they would've been paid if they’d been at work. This includes any overtime or extra payment they'd normally receive on that day.
That's all you need to know! Almost. Here's the rest of it:
Someone's calling in sick on Fridays and Mondays with a creative range of health issues. You know they're not really sick, but you have to keep paying them for days off. What can you do about it?
You can ask for a doctor’s certificate if an employee wants sick leave. If they're only taking one or two days off, you have to pay for the doctor's visit. But if they take 3 or more days off in a row, request a doctor’s certificate and have them pick up the tab.
If you ask for a medical certificate and your employee can’t come up with one, you can politely decline to pay them sick leave. Instead, you could offer to pay it as an annual leave day. And of course, they can always take it as leave without pay.
Sick leave can roll over for up to 4 years. If your employee has a superhuman immune system, the law says they can build up a maximum of 20 sick days (and as their employer, you can let them build up more than that). But even if somebody never gets crook, don't pay out their untaken sick leave as a bonus. It's more of a contingency.
Staff start to gain sick leave after they’ve been working for 6 months. From that point, they gain 5 days every 12 months, so their sick leave anniversary is 6 months after their start date.
Keeping it Casual
Casual workers and part-timers are eligible for sick leave, just like their full-time friends. The Holidays Act says that 5 days of sick leave should be given to any eligible employee. But only if they meet a minimum number of hours over the last 6 months. They need to have worked at least 10 hours a week and 40 hours a month for 6 months.
That being said, always check the employment agreement! You might have promised your part-timer 5 days, without any conditions. In that case, they'll get the full quota, no matter what their schedule.
Your employee can also use their sick days on somebody else. If a partner/spouse or a "dependent individual" is sick or injured, sick leave can cover time as their caregiver. Employees could take the day to care for a child, an elderly parent, or someone "who depends on the employee for care".
If your employee is under the weather, but they have no sick leave available, you could choose to advance sick leave - but be careful. Check that the employment agreement says that overpaid sick or annual leave can be deducted from the employee’s final pay. And remember that even if your employee agreed to this in the contract, you might not be able to claw back overpaid leave if they leave suddenly.
If they're about to receive their allocation of sick leave, it's probably okay (ie after 5 and a half month's employment). But it’s still a wee bit of a risk.
That covers it! Once you know the rules on sick leave, you'll find that you also know a lot of the rules for bereavement leave, parental leave and domestic violence leave, so it's a good one to get familiar with. Visit MBIE for more information. If you've still got unanswered questions, give us a bell on 0800 746 700. Stay healthy!