Worker petitions NZ government to give all employees paid leave on birthdays

An employee is calling on the government to give Kiwis an extra day of holiday

Worker petitions NZ government to give all employees paid leave on birthdays

An employee is petitioning the New Zealand government to compel employers to give workers a day off on their birthday.

The man is calling for legislation changes to the Holidays Act that would see all employees get an extra day of paid leave per year.

Around the globe, several businesses do already offer a paid day off and it’s often cited as part of the attraction strategy for new job roles.

For example, KPMG’s graduate trainees in the UK receive their birthday off work, on top of their 25 days’ holiday allowance.

While a past American Express job advertisement in 2018 boasted that employees would “never have to work their birthday again”.

In an increasingly flexible world of work, will these sorts of perks become the norm?

Read more: The science behind gratitude at work

Katie Williams, CPO at employee feedback company Joyous, said while an extra day off might seem great in a job advertisement, in reality it does little to improve employee engagement in the long term.

“Firstly, it's a real cost for businesses and some may not be able to afford it,” she told HRD.

“Secondly, these benefits' impact on engagement drops quickly as it isn't earned and therefore not as valued  and it fast becomes devalued by employees as it becomes a normalised part of their working life - "it's just something we do around here." 

But that isn’t to say additional leave can’t be used as a successful reward and recognition tool.

Rather than making it part of the package from the outset, Williams said surprise and delight strategies are far more successful.

“One way of getting a return on additional leave in general is to do it as a one-off and to make it a reward,” she said.

“For example, business leaders can phrase it as ‘We grew above plan last year and so we're celebrating this by giving you all a day off in recognition of your contribution to this fantastic result’."  

Read more: Seven signs you're being underpaid – and how to ask for a raise

NZ’s workplace relations and safety minister Michael Wood said the petition was unlikely to be successful, because employees can already request their birthday off by using their annual leave.

The government recently passed a bill to double sick leave allowance from five to 10 days, in response to issues highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The additional leave policy, which formed a key part of Labour’s pre-election campaign, is expected to come into force from late next year.

Announcing the changes, Wood said the increase would bring benefits to both employers and their employees.

He said: “Covid-19 has shown how important it is to stay at home when people are sick. The Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill will mean more workers can stay at home if they’re sick, and more sick leave will help support working parents.”

Meanwhile, NZ media company Stuff is set to test the viability of “unlimited” sick leave for staff for six months.

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