Unions celebrate win in maintaining additional sick leave for community-based support workers at Access Community Health
Workers providing essential support for older people and others at home have safeguarded their entitlement to additional sick leave following a successful case before the Employment Relations Authority.
"This is a great day for workers who provide essential support in the community," said Lesley Harry, organiser for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
The PSA and E tū took Access Community Health to the Authority over a disagreement on workers’ sick leave entitlements under their collective agreement.
Access support workers provide support for more than 40,000 people providing intimate personal care, rehabilitation, social support, meal preparation, medication support and many other tasks needed to enable clients to live with dignity in their own home.
More than 1300 members of the PSA and E tū had negotiated an extra four days sick leave a year, in addition to their statutory entitlement.
The Holidays Act was amended last year to double the entitlement to sick leave from five days to 10. Access argued that the amendment meant the maximum sick leave the support workers were entitled to was 10, not 14.
In a determination issued today, Employment Relations Authority member Claire English said: "Given the wording of the collective agreement, I have no hesitation in finding that the 4 days sick leave provided for… is a type of special benefit and was intended by both parties to be in addition to the statutory minimum entitlement to sick leave."
Lesley Harry said members would be celebrating today. "Support workers are frontline health workers, who worked all through the COVID lockdowns, ensuring some of the most vulnerable people in our community continued to get the support they needed. They can’t put their clients’ health at risk, so the additional four days of sick leave was really important to them.
"Our workers are still amongst the lowest paid in our community, but it is still fantastic news that the extra sick leave has been protected. Today’s determination properly recognises the valuable work our members do to help people continue to live independently at home."
E tū also welcomed the determination. E tū team leader Alicia Stanaway said: "This win is a recognition of the importance of sick leave not only for the workers but also for the vulnerable people they support in the communities."