'We are all in this together'

Some employers are not passing on the wage subsidy or compelling staff to use sick or annual leave as cover during the isolation period

'We are all in this together'

Employers must act in good faith when accessing available schemes by the Government Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights, according to Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.

Unions have raised concerns that some employers are not passing on the wage subsidy or compelling staff to use sick or annual leave as cover during the isolation period.

“These are difficult and uncertain times for all New Zealanders,” said Saunoamaali’i.

“The deep inequalities we face have widened with COVID-19 especially for certain groups across Aotearoa who are more disproportionately affected. This is the reality of any crisis.

“I’m encouraging business owners to talk openly with their staff before making decisions affecting their jobs. I urge bosses to face up to the inevitable emotional conversations, continue to exercise transparency and do the right thing.”

Saunoamaali’i said it’s important to get support from other business owners who are facing the same dilemmas because “we are all in this together”.

New Zealanders who are over-represented in low-paid jobs, particularly Māori and Pacific workers, women, disabled and rainbow people, migrants, young and older workers, are more vulnerable to discrimination in employment during this time.

“I applaud the Government for listening to the voices of workers, unions, business owners and civil society as reflected in its swift policy responses,” said Saunoamaali’i.

“The time taken to understand and address particular vulnerabilities of different groups in our communities sends the message that “we see you and this is how you’ll be supported.

“It is disappointing that during this extraordinary time, we are worried about children, women, and households living with perpetrators of family violence. Losing a job, business, hours of work are not excuses for abusing those who love and care for you.”

Saunoamaali’I added that her request to abusers is to self-isolate. The money set aside for more refuge support would be much better spent on shelter, food, warmth, safety, and security for our families instead of rescuing them from someone’s abuse of their love and loyalty.

“It’s important that those with the least have what they need to get through, build resilience and exit this crisis intact and stronger. This is how we ensure our vulnerable aren’t further marginalised.”

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