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Source: Human Rights Commission

Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo has called on employers to act in good faith when accessing available schemes by the Government. 

Concerns have been raised by unions that some employers are not passing on the wage subsidy or compelling staff to use sick or annual leave as cover during the isolation period. 

“These are difficult and uncertain times for all New Zealanders. The deep inequalities we face have widened with COVID-19 especially for certain groups across Aotearoa who are more disproportionately affected. This is the reality of any crisis.”

“I’m encouraging business owners to talk openly with their staff before making decisions affecting their jobs. I urge bosses to face up to the inevitable emotional conversations, continue to exercise transparency and do the right thing. Get support from other business owners who are facing the same dilemmas. We are all in this together.” adds Saunoamaali’i. 

New Zealanders who are over-represented in low-paid jobs, particularly Māori and Pacific workers, women, disabled and rainbow people, migrants, young and older workers, are more vulnerable to discrimination in employment during this time. 

“I applaud the Government for listening to the voices of workers, unions, business owners and civil society as reflected in its swift policy responses. The time taken to understand and address particular vulnerabilities of different groups in our communities sends the message that “we see you and this is how you’ll be supported.” 

“It is disappointing that during this extraordinary time, we are worried about children, women, and households living with perpetrators of family violence. Losing a job, business, hours of work are not excuses for abusing those who love and care for you. My request to abusers – self-isolate. The money set aside for more refuge support would be much better spent on shelter, food, warmth, safety, and security for our families instead of rescuing them from someone’s abuse of their love and loyalty,” adds Saunoamaali’i. 

“It’s important that those with the least have what they need to get through, build resilience and exit this crisis intact and stronger. This is how we ensure our vulnerable aren’t further marginalised.”

The Human Rights Commission has received 28 enquiries and complaints so far about COVID-19. If anyone feels they have been discriminated against based on their race, colour, ethnicity, national origin, sex or disability, they can make a complaint to the Commission. Visit our website to find out more about the Commission’s enquiries and complaints service. You can call the Commission directly on 0800 496 87. Employees don’t need to be part of a union to lodge a complaint with the Commission. You can also seek advice with MBIE and the Labour Inspectorate.  

Media Interviews: 

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner will be available for interviews today from 1.45pm – 2.30pm. 

Please contact Rachna Nath on [email protected] or 022 014 7594 for interviews.