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Government leave subsidy must meet three key tests

The Government’s leave subsidy for working people who have high vulnerability to COVID or share a bubble with vulnerable people must be extended and improved by meeting three simple tests to succeed says the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.

CTU President Richard Wagstaff outline these criteria. “Firstly, the Government’s scheme to protect at risk working people and their families needs to give control to at risk working people, it needs to be able to be initiated by them, and there need to be no cost barriers to them proving they are at risk.”

“As hundreds of thousands of people return to work under Level 3, anyone who is going to be put 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.”

“Secondly, any leave subsidy that offers that protection must be able to be initiated by the at-risk worker, not by employer discretion. We do not want a repeat of situations we saw under the wage subsidy where working people were laid off because their employer wouldn’t apply for support for their wages.”

“We would also expect some kind of guarantee that at-risk people would be protect from redundancy during the period of this subsidy.”

“Finally, if employers want to challenge a working person’s ‘at-risk’ status we would expect the employer to meet the medical costs associated with that challenge. We cannot have people placed in danger because proving they are at-risk is too difficult or expensive.”

“We can make it though COVID-19 together as a nation, but we need to make sure that everyone is treated fairly and safely. That should start with our most at risk people,” Wagstaff said.