10 Jun 2009

Union, employer group at odds over swine flu compo

7:36 pm on 10 June 2009

A union and employers group are at loggerheads over what employees should be entitled to if they are exposed to swine flu in the workplace.

Regulations introduced this week give medical officers of health legal powers to keep people away from work if they are ill.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is demanding compensation as work places throughout the country are forced into quarantine.

The union is following five cases in which members were quarantined after being exposed to the virus. It says workers can incur significant costs in the event they are unable to work.

It says employers should take financial responsibility if employees are quarantined as a result of exposure in the workplace.

But the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association says employers are not a welfare service for swine flu. It says employers do not have the resources to cover all the costs of their employees' misfortunes.

Employment lawyer Andrew Scott-Howman employers have no legal obligation to compensate staff in this sort of situation.

Quarantined NZQA staff get full pay

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority says 29 staff members quarantined after a co-worker was diagnosed with swine flu will continue to receive their full salary and entitlements.

The female staff member was diagnosed with the virus on Monday night after returning from a recent trip to the United States.

Co-workers in close contact with her were advised to stay at home for three days.

Authority chief executive Karen Poutasi says they are at home on full pay and will not lose any entitlements.

Dr Poutasi says they are not ill, and are considered to be on special leave.

All staff are expected to return to work on Friday, although one may have symptoms of swine flu, she says.

The woman who does have the virus is on sick leave.

Confirmed total at 23

Four more cases of swine flu were confirmed on Wednesday, taking the country's total to 23.

Three of the new confirmed cases are from Wellington and the fourth is from Canterbury.

Two of the three new Wellington cases are close contacts of two other Wellingtonians who were confirmed on Tuesday as having swine flu.

The Canterbury case is a woman who arrived from Chile on 4 June on flight LAN 801.

The Health Ministry says eight of the confirmed cases remain in isolation, while the others have recovered.

Health officials are urging people who have returned from overseas and who have flu symptoms to phone first before visiting their family doctor.