With COVID-19 in mind and the importance of employees staying home when sick so as to not spread illness to others, the Government has recently passed the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill in order to double the availability of mandatory employer-funded sick leave for employees.  The new legislation will come into effect on 24 July 2021.  After that date, employees will become entitled to 10 days’ sick leave on their next entitlement date.

So what does this mean practically?

  • New employees after 24 July 2021 will receive 10 days’ sick leave as soon as they become entitled to sick leave, which is six months after starting their employment.  For example, an employee employed in August 2021 will become entitled to 10 days sick leave in February 2022, being six months later.
  • Existing employees, who already are entitled to sick leave when the legislation comes into force, will become entitled to 10 days’ sick leave on their next entitlement date. Their entitlement date is their anniversary date on which they first became entitled to sick leave.  For example, an employee who has a sick leave anniversary date of April, will have to wait until April 2022 to receive their 10 days, given their entitlement date pre-dates 24 July 2021.  However, an employee with an anniversary date of August 2021, will receive 10 days sick leave in August 2021.
  • If an employer already provides their employees with an entitlement to 10 or more sick leave days a year, the employee will not be affected by this change and will not receive any more sick leave.
  • The entitlements for employees are still carried over if unused, up to a maximum of 10 sick days per year (rather than 15 under the current legislation) and can be accumulated up to 20 days (which is the same total amount employees were already able to accrue up to, prior to the upcoming law change).

So what should employers do as a result of this change?

For new employees after 24 July 2021, they should be provided with an Individual Employment Agreements (IEAs) which reflects the change.

Whether existing employment agreements need to be amended really depends on whether these contradict the new law and, more especially, conflict with it.  Even if they do, some employment agreements already provide that they are varied by the terms of any legislative changes.  In any case, the changes are minimum statutory entitlements which cannot be contracted out of, meaning that employers need to comply, regardless of whether the employment agreement is less favourable to the employee than the upcoming change.

Employers should also check their payroll systems to make sure that they have been updated to reflect the changes, after 24 July 2021.

Finally, employers should also expect further changes regarding sick leave, as the Government has also recently begun to work on further recommendations which includes a proposal for employees to be able to access some sick leave from the first day of their employment, as opposed to only being eligible for sick leave after 6 months.  This legislation is expected to be introduced in early 2022.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should consult your lawyer about your specific situation. Please feel free to contact Mike Henderson-Rauter mikehenderson-rauter@parryfield.com at Parry Field Lawyers