National calls for new self-isolation payment

The National Party is proposing a new payment scheme to make it easier for employees to stay home while they are self-isolating.

National’s proposed scheme involves:

  • The Government paying 100 per cent of a person’s wages and salary for two weeks if they are ordered to self-isolate

  • Wage payments will be capped at twice the average ordinary time weekly earnings

  • Payments will go directly to employees, with no requirement for employers to claim.

The latest Valentine’s Day cluster and resulting lockdown was a harsh reminder of how important it is for people to self-isolate when told to by health officials, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“The ‘stay home, save lives’ mantra sounds simple enough, but it’s not always that easy for people who can’t afford to not be working.”

The current Leave Support Scheme pays fulltime workers $1176.60 and part-time workers $700 as a lump sum for a two-week period, with the money going to their employers.

“This is well below the minimum wage and below what a fulltime worker would earn from sick leave,” Ms Collins says. “We must make it easier for people to stay home when required.

“Self-isolation is increasingly becoming a requirement because of the Government’s failures at the border, yet workers across New Zealand are the ones paying the price.

“National wants to make sure people can do the right thing with the least amount of economic inconvenience.”

COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says the proposed self-isolation scheme is modelled on the previous National Government’s successful Compensation for Live Organ Donors Act, which sees the Government pay 100 per cent of the wages and salary of people who take time off from work to donate organs.

“Self-isolating is the right thing to do, but if doing the right thing means you will be financially penalised then people will be more likely to go to work instead and put the rest of us at risk.

Treasury advised the Government that ‘economic and financial incentives’ were needed to support compliance with stay-home rules, but the Government hasn’t done anything, Mr Bishop says.

“Our scheme is a sensible investment. Lockdowns in Auckland alone cost the New Zealand economy $500 million per week. Avoiding them needs to be our top priority.”

The flip-side of Government support for self-isolators is tougher enforcement of the rules, Mr Bishop says.

“The Government should be making it as easy as possible to self-isolate, but the quid pro quo is that people who break the rules face consequences. This is the fair way to go.”