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COVID-19: Leave subsidy changes – needs to go further

The Council of Trade Unions welcomes the government’s announcement to extend the leave subsidy as part of the package to support working people through the consequences of the COVID-19 virus. However, the CTU believes more can be done to support working people.

CTU President, Richard Wagstaff is pleased that the ‘at-risk’ subsidy has been provided. “This is certainly a positive. Working people who are ‘at-risk’ of serious harm, whether it’s because of their age, a compromised immune system, or any other health condition, should be supported by the government to stay home and stay safe. It is appropriate and fair that this has been provided.”

“But a problem remains with a system that relies on employers to do the right thing and apply for the subsidy in the first place. Unfortunately, in relation to other subsidies, the last few weeks have exposed that some employers would prefer to simply make employees redundant, than pass on, let alone top up government subsidies aimed at supporting working Kiwis. There remains a problem when some employers would rather make people redundant than apply for the subsidy.”

“At the core of our concern is that people’s life and work outcomes depend on both the goodwill of the employer and the employers ability to navigate a reasonably complex new system of Government support. The Government needs to make in clear in their advice to business that businesses should pick up available wage subsidies for ‘at-risk’ people much stronger. ‘At-risk’ people need to have their rights to support guaranteed, rather than depend on their employer to do the right thing,” Wagstaff said.