Sick leave 

How much sick leave am I entitled to?

In general you are eligible for five days’ sick leave once you have worked continuously for your employer for six months. If you are a casual worker, you are eligible for the same amount of sick leave if you’ve been working regularly for your employer for six months. 

You are entitled to accrue up to 20 days sick leave, by carrying over unused sick leave from year to year.

These are the minimum sick leave requirements; depending on your employment agreement you may be entitled to more sick leave per year, be able to take sick leave before you have worked for your employer for six months and/or accrue more than 20 days' sick leave.

You can also take sick leave to look after your partner, child or parent if they are sick or injured. 

Find out more from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment NZ website.

Can I get sick leave if I’m a part-time worker?

Even if you work part-time, you are still entitled to a minimum of five full days of sick leave per year after being in the job for six months and all the other entitlements described above.

What happens to my sick leave at the end of the year?

If you don’t use all of your sick leave during a particular year, you can carry over the unused sick leave to the following year. You can store up to 20 days of unused sick leave from previous years (more if your employment agreement allows it).

You normally won’t be able to cash in your sick leave even if you leave your job.

If I take time off work because I'm sick, do I have to get a note from my doctor as proof?

Your employer is entitled to ask you to provide proof of your illness or injury - normally in the form of a medical certificate from your doctor - when you take sick leave. If you take sick leave to care for another person (e.g. your child), your employer can ask you for proof of that person's illness or injury.

If the employer asks for proof when you are away sick for less than three consecutive days, they should tell you as soon as possible that proof is required and must pay reasonable expenses incurred in getting that proof. They can’t insist that you visit a particular health provider.

If your employer asks for proof of your illness or injury when you are away sick for three or more consecutive days, you'll have to pay the costs of visiting a doctor to get that proof. For example, if you have been off work for two consecutive days and are still sick on the third day, then your employer can ask you for a medical certificate and you would have pay for the cost of obtaining one.

It’s important to note that the three consecutive days includes any scheduled breaks within that period. For example, if you are away sick on Monday, on Tuesday you had a scheduled break, then you were away sick again on Wednesday, you have effectively been away for three consecutive days. This means that if your employer asks you for a medical certificate on the Wednesday you will have to pay for the cost of getting one.

If you don't provide proof when it has been requested and don't have a reasonable excuse, your employer is entitled to not pay you for the leave until you do provide proof.

You can read more about this on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment NZ website.

What will happen if I get sick and have already used up all of my sick leave entitlement?

If you have to take time off work due to illness but have no sick leave entitlement, talk to your employer about your options. It’s most likely you will have to use some of your annual leave, take unpaid leave, or take sick leave in advance (e.g. if you have not worked there for long enough to have sick leave entitlement).

If I take a week off for a work-related injury, does that count as sick leave?

If you have to take time off due to injury, whether the time is taken as sick leave or not depends on whether the injury is work-related and whether you receive compensation from ACC for the time you are off work:

  • If you have to take time off because of a work-accident and it is covered by ACC, your employer must pay you “first week compensation” (which is calculated at 80% of what you would normally have earned in that period) for the first week (or part of the week) you are away, and can’t make you take that time off as sick leave. If ACC assesses that you must be off work for longer than one week, ACC will pay you compensation from the second week onwards (unless you work for an ACC accredited employer). 
  • For an injury that is not work-related, your employer can ask you to take the first week off as sick leave.
  • If you continue to take time off from work and receive weekly compensation from ACC then your employer can’t make you take that time off as sick leave. This is true regardless of whether the accident occurred in, or outside of, the workplace.

See our ACC page for more information about your ACC entitlements, or this Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment page for more information about the relationship between sick leave and ACC.