Jo Wrigley is standing for the Green Party Aotearoa as the candidate in the Hamilton West Electorate, having developed an appetite for positive change and a healthy and sustainable future. An active voice in her community, Jo advocates for beneficiaries and people on low incomes, rainbow issues, secure housing, accessible public transport and the union movement. Jo is a proud FIRST Union member, and since joining the Greens in 2001 has been an active member and co-convener of Waikato Province and Union Greens. She has also managed to raise four great, talented, caring young people.
I love that unions have continued to speak out for sick leave at work. It’s that time of year where our workmates are arriving with gurgling chests, strange coughs and fists filled with tissues, this is frightening for people terrified of catching other people’s infectious bugs, especially bugs that gurgle. If you have contact with pre-schooler’s either in your whanau or your workplace then chances are that your risk of winter time illness has just quadrupled.
Every working person is entitled to a minimum of five days per year sick leave. The only exclusion to this is people employed on a casual basis. Accessing sick leave is a right which supports your wellness as well as the wellness of your workmates. Many union workplaces allow for more than five days sick leave and will accrue sick leave that you do not use. For example if your employment contract states that you have eight days sick leave as an entitlement and because of your anti-bug superpower you do not take sick leave this year, then next year you accrue those three extra days and will have 11 days sick leave in case your super power fails.
Increasingly employers seek to ‘manage’ sick leave by meeting with working people to take sick leave. Employers will argue that this is a support strategy intended to find out what is going on for people that may impact on their ability to be at work. Where words such as reliability, absenteeism, performance and expressions such as ‘impact upon the team’ are being used most working people feel they are being bullied and they are. This approach to sick leave fails to consider that waiting until an illness escalates to chronic or critical means that the recovery time is lengthened, the cost to the individual is greater and the illness then impacts upon many other people.
It is hard in small workplaces and hospitality when we are running short staffed and that workmate who always seem to call in at the last moment and can’t be replaced can be frustrating, sometimes it even feels like they are taking the piss. Talk to your workmate, check in with them to see what is going on, it’s likely that they are worried too, missing shifts and missing income once we run out of leave is stressful too. If it feels like too many people in your workplace are taking sick leave or your employer complains that there is too much sick leave talk to your health and safety representative and get help looking for causes in your workplace. It could be the heating, the air conditioning, something like black mould in the building, the lighting or even the workplace culture.
The nature of sick leave is that it is unplanned, we cannot predict the terrible vomiting, shitty bugs that slam us into the wharepaku for the day or the transition from “I think I have allergies” to a “headcold” to oh hell I have pneumonia. We can encourage our workmates to keep their bugs at home, access our sick leave when we need it and join a union to help improve these conditions in the workplace.