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Who pays for swine flu?

Written By: - Date published: 12:17 pm, June 18th, 2009 - 14 comments
Categories: business, health, workers' rights - Tags:

A lot of people (like a million people or more according to the experts) are set to get sick from swine flu or not be able to go to work because the business is shut because of swine flu. What will happen to people’s incomes when they can’t work because of swine flu?

The statutory minimum for paid sick leave is five days. For many people that won’t be nearly enough to cover being sick with swine flu themselves, time off to look after dependents who get sick, potentially time when they are well but their work is closed, and time off for other normal sicknesses during the year. A smart business would rather pay for a sick person to stay home even if their paid leave has run out, than force them to come into work and infect others. But we know not all businesses are smart.

Ultimately, neither workers nor employers should be saddled with the cost of swine flu. It is a problem that we face as a community, so we should carry the cost collectively though the government.

Here’s what I propose – a law to be passed under urgency with the following provisions:

  • an emergency addition of 5 days to the statutory minimum paid sick leave to remain until the pandemic is declared over by the Ministry of Health. Unlike ordinary sick leave, this pandemic sick leave would be payable to all employees. That includes those who have been employed in their job for less than six months and those in triangular employment relationships – both these groups are not eligible for ordinary sick leave. Businesses will be able reclaim from the government what they pay employees on pandemic sick leave.
  • if a business is closed on Ministry of Health orders or employees are placed in quarantine, the employees should be paid at relevant daily pay, not base rate as some are at the moment. Again, the business will be able to reclaim from the government what they pay employees who are prevented from working on MoH orders.
  • if a business voluntarily chooses to close temporarily it must pay its employees at relevant daily pay.
  • greater access to emergency benefits for people employed in triangular working relationships and others like the self-employed who don’t get paid sick leave if they can’t work due to swine flu.

No, it’s won’t be cheap but the cost will be borne somewhere. We can’t have workers and their families losing all their income once their sick leave runs out. It’s not fair to expect businesses to pay. It seems to me that the only fair way to bear the cost is together through the government.
-Marty G

14 comments on “Who pays for swine flu?”

  1. vidiot 1

    I guess that’s what that 4th week of annual leave can be used for ?

    “It is a problem that we face as a community, so we should carry the cost collectively though the government.”

    ROFL – just 2 days ago, you were saying that we shouldn’t collectively carry the burden of debt amalgamation of the super city.

    And your law would be unworkable, deviant employer could just claim that all of his staff sick leave is swine related. Boom head shot !

    • Merlin 1.1

      Some workers might falsely claim sick leave but few would, just as is the case now. That’s a danger in the existing law too and you don’t argue for no sick leave at all…. so, no, no head shot

      The argument the other day was that people in Manukau shouldn’t be saddled with repaying debt racked up by people in Rodney because the people of Manukau took the democratic choice to have less debt than the people of Rodney. That’s not even remotely the same situation as talking about how to deal with the cost of swine flu at all.

  2. cocamc 2

    Swine flu is not necessarily any worse than seasonal flu that is experienced every year in NZ.

    Australia has scaled back its measures now as although the strain is more infectious it’s no more likely to result in hospital admissions . There are 1 to 2 thousand deaths in Oz from seasonal flu annually and swine flu expected to cause (but non so far) a fraction of deaths on that annual tally.

    It’s the flu and people get the flu every year and in three months we’ll be into spring and wondering what all the fuss was about.

    MoH ordering companies, schools, etc to close down is over the top IMHO.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      “MoH ordering companies, schools, etc to close down is over the top IMHO.”

      cocamc, questions I’m pondering, to which I admit I don’t really know the answers:

      why is it more infectious?
      what does the number of eventual cases mean in terms of potential mutations?
      is that anything to be concerned about?
      if so, how do you alleviate as much of that concern as possible?

    • Merlin 2.2

      “It’s the flu and people get the flu every year and in three months we’ll be into spring and wondering what all the fuss was about.”

      The fuss is that no-one has any immunity to this. It’s not more deadly but a lot lot more people will catch it… get it? It’s not about more deadly, it’s about the impact on our health service and our infrastructure of huge numbers of people getting sick at once.

      Tony Ryall says the MoH estimates another 4,000 hospitals admissions over and above the 31,000 that are typical in a winter month… that’s 13% more stress on an already stressed system.

      I’m just wondering what makes you think you know more about this than the medicial experts.

    • Anita 2.3

      If very few people are immune then it will infect more people than an equivalent virus.

      It seems to me that the main problem with this H1N1 strain is the lack of community immunity. Every year almost everyone in healthcare roles is immunised against the likely seasonal flu viruses, also many education staff, most vital infrastructure staff, and most people with existing chronic or complex health conditions.

      This year all of us who are usually immunised will be susceptible to this flu. The health service, police, corrections, public transport staff and so on this winter are likely to be off sick in greater numbers than in recent history. Combined with the fact that those of us who are already sickest are likely be getting the flu in greater numbers than in recent history, we have a real problem in the making.

      The government spends quite a lot of money every year keeping me well: regular GP and specialist care, expensive medication, annual flu vaccinations etc. While I’d love to think that it’s because they’re kind and generous and want me to be well and happy, part of it is because it’s fiendishly expensive when I get sick. This year, unlike any year in the last decade, there is a good chance I will get the flu.

      The only plus in all of this is the that the old and frail, who are usually most often killed or hospital bound by the flu, are the most likely ones to have pre-existing immunity (gained in the 1950s).

  3. Steve 3

    Why should this become a Government/Taxpayer problem?
    I have my own emergency fund ans so everyone should.
    Next time you feel like lashing out on alcahol or Lotto etc, abstain and put the money into your own emergency fund.

    • Pete 3.1

      Good on ya Steve,

      Of course everyone else is in a position to have an ’emergency fund’ just as you do. I’m so glad someone suggested it, and not in a condescending way either.

      Of course people on low incomes waste it all on Lotto and booze (and they don’t work nearly as hard as the likes of Steve either) so if they haven’t thought of setting up an ’emergency fund’ already they and their dependents all deserve to suffer.

      Man, I’m so glad I can have a look at blog posts such as this and read such well thought out ‘arguments’ as Steve’s.

      Oh, and Steve, it appears you may be a bit dim (refer to your own comment), so just FYI – my reply post is sarcasm:
      sar·casm –
      1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
      2. A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.
      3. The use of sarcasm.

    • Merlin 3.2

      Yeah, on the minimum wage or close to it with kids to raise it’s a piece of cake to put aside enough money to cover a week or two with zero income.

    • Chris G 3.3

      Steve’s post = a right wingers Typical view of people particularly low income earners.

      Disgustingly out of touch. Get the silver spoon out of your ass you deluded fools.

      • Steve 3.3.1

        Sorry Pete, I was 10 years in standard 2

        • Maynard J 3.3.1.1

          And this would be # 11?

          You are a very good boy for putting your pocket money aside. What have you got now? $3.50?

  4. Darien Fenton 4

    I blogged about this on Red Alert yesterday. You may be interested in the responses there. Darien

  5. Anita 5

    Many years ago I was paid my usual rate when my employer, in discussion with me, decided they would rather I stayed home than worked when there was a good chance I was in the contagious but pre-symptomatic stage of measles.

    Given they were not the most worker-oriented employer and I was a part-timer working around my university studies I was pretty impressed that they just paid me, it didn’t seem to occur to my boss that I should be unpaid or use sick leave.

    Ah the good old days before the ECA.

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