• August 29, 2019
Restaurant, café and bar staff are going to work sick because they can’t afford to take unpaid time off. Charlotte Te Inu Wai Muru-Lanning
Many hospitality workers are going to work with viruses because they can’t afford to take unpaid time off, according to a senior hospitality expert.
E Tu Union coordinator, Sam Jones said changes needed to be made for the benefit of the employees, the businesses and their customers.
“No one in New Zealand wants the people serving them food having an economic situation where they’re coming to work sick,” said Mr Jones.
He said, workers employed for less than six months or who work on a casual contract had no legal rights to sick pay and that legislation needed to change.
“The government should be looking to extend sick leave entitlements to day one.”
According to Mr Jones, the low wages that most hospitality workers lived off was central to the problem as they had less access to quality food, housing and healthcare.
“Low pay breeds unhealthy situations,” he said.
Senior hospitality lecturer at AUT David Williamson said that the low paid and insecure nature of most hospitality work meant that workers simply could not afford to take unpaid days off.
He said that it was unfair that employers often told workers that they should not come to work sick, but didn’t offer sick pay.
“It’s all very well to say you shouldn’t come to work but people need to be paid and that’s a very good example of how a lot of modern workplaces put the responsibility on the employee,” said Mr Williamson.
He said that there needed to be better access to unions and collective agreements for these workers.
“Employees now are in a very difficult position because they don’t have the support of unions or legislation that protects them effectively.”
However, Mr Williamson said these changes should not be limited to hospitality.
“It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in, it doesn’t matter what your job description is, I think the protections need to be universal,” he said.
He was “optimistic” that there was growing consensus that workers needed to be protected through legislation.
“Having large numbers of poorly paid, poorly protected employees isn’t actually good for you as a country. This is bad for society, it’s bad for your citizens,” said Mr Williamson.