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Noho ora mai
By: Charlene Sell, Meg Moot
The Government’s proposed reform of employees’ sick leave entitlements has now been passed into law. 

From 24 July 2021, the Holidays Act 2003 will be updated so that an employee’s minimum entitlement to sick leave will be doubled from 5 days to 10 days per year.

New employees will be entitled to 10 days’ sick leave after they have completed 6 months’ current continuous employment.  For existing employees who have already worked for at least six months, their entitlement to 10 days’ sick leave will arise on the anniversary of the date they first became entitled to sick leave i.e. the date that is six months after they commenced employment (Anniversary Date).

Employers will need to prepare for these changes.  We recommend that employers prepare by taking the following steps:
  • Ensure that you have accurately recorded each employee’s Anniversary Date.
  • Check with your payroll provider to ensure that your payroll system will reflect the transition from 5 to 10 days’ sick leave, each year.
  • Explain to your existing employees how the changes to sick leave entitlements will work.  Some employers have previously provided their employees with sick leave entitlements that exceed the minimum requirements.  Those employers should consider whether they will still provide sick leave in excess of the minimum entitlements or stay with the new minimum entitlements.  
  • Update your employment agreements to reflect the new sick leave entitlements.  This is especially important if your employment agreements refer specifically to an entitlement of 5 days’ sick leave per year.
Some aspects of employees’ sick leave entitlements will remain unchanged.  Any unused sick leave may still be carried over, up to a total of 20 days each year and the requirements for providing proof of sickness or injury are retained.

This is a good time for employers to review employment agreements and make sure they are compliant with recent developments and are consistent with employment laws.  The Holidays Act 2003 was recently changed to provide for bereavement leave entitlements where an employee or their partner suffer the loss of a pregnancy.  Employers may also wish to consider including (or reviewing) provisions in employment agreements that deal with the employment relationship where a major event, such as a natural disaster or pandemic, occurs.  

We also recommend employers review employment policies that stand alongside their employment agreements.  This has become particularly important recently given the changes to some working practices during and after the Covid-19 lockdown.  We have lately advised clients in relation to travel and remote working policies.  These policies provide clarity to employers and employees on what happens if employees are not be able to return to the workplace, whether that be because the borders have unexpectedly closed or because an employee has displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

For tailored advice on how recent developments in employment law affect you and your employees, please get in touch with a member of our employment team.
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