A recent TVNZ story has highlighted the fact that some
employers have begun encouraging staff not to take sick leave by
giving them an end of year bonus.
What it didn't discuss is how to deal with employees who
continue to come to work, despite being clearly unwell.
Those employees often have genuine reasons for continuing to
work, such as deadlines that must be met, or the fact that an
employee has exhausted their paid sick leave entitlement and cannot
afford to take unpaid leave. However, it is a potential
problem for an employer who does not want the rest of its workforce
to get sick or when a sick staff member's co-workers start to
What does the law say?
An employer must be very careful about sending an employee home,
as it could be construed as a suspension, and should always check
their employment agreements and policies to see whether it has the
power to do so. Balanced with that is the obligation to
provide a safe workplace, which might include taking steps to
isolate an employee who might make their colleagues ill.
A cautious employer might seek medical advice as to whether an
employee is actually contagious (and therefore really does pose a
risk) rather than relying on a non-clinical belief of the risk of
infection. In that case, the employer may consider whether it
is feasible for an employee to work from home for a period of time
until they are no longer infectious.