Sick leave balances taking a hit

Whether it’s a cold, flu, a tummy bug from day-care or the notorious C-word, we’re only partway through winter and already the amount of sick leave being taken seems higher than normal.

In New Zealand, most employees are entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave per year – this was only increased recently on 24 July 2021 from 5 days. We also allow unused sick leave to be carried over to the next year, to a maximum of 20 days. But how do we stack up against other countries?

In the US, there are no federal law requirements to provide paid sick leave. Such an entitlement is considered a luxury and not a right, and as a result, any entitlement is provided at a state level. The amount of paid sick leave varies on a state-by-state basis, but most of the states that do have sick leave policies cap the amount at a maximum of 40 hours (~5 days) per year.

However, there are still approximately 18 states that do not require employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave, and further, some of these states also have pre-emption laws to prevent cities and local governments from implementing paid sick leave requirements.

In the UK, the legislated weekly sick leave allowance is only ~20% of the average employee’s income. On the other end of the spectrum, employees in Sweden are entitled to 80% of their salary for up to a year. In Slovenia, the entitlement is unlimited and is also paid at the 80% rate.

Due to the number of lock-down periods over the past two years keeping us sheltered from bugs and bacteria, prior to this winter many of us would have been sitting at the maximum accumulated 20-day amount – it’s no wonder our immune systems and our sick leave balances are taking a hit!

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