Covid-19 Health Worker Demands

Covid-19 Health Worker Demands

We propose the below six demands as both a recognition of the high-risk, stressful, and critical nature of our essential work during the pandemic, as well as a starting point for a more long-term conversation about radical changes to our working conditions in the health sector. We understand that for many health workers, these demands only scratch the surface of what you believe you are worth. We encourage you to build on these demands with your co-workers and fight for this – and more. Not just the bare minimum, but equal to our true value; not just now, always.



Because New Zealand has confirmed community transmission and people can be contagious when they are asymptomatic. Health workers coming into close contact with people outside their ‘bubble’ are at risk of getting sick or becoming a vector of Covid-19 in their community. There must be a plan to ramp up supply of PPE and develop training for how to use it effectively.


Because as essential workers we are interacting with people outside our ‘bubble’ every day we go to work, and do not have the ability to physically distance. We know that overseas health workers are dying from the virus, even if they are wearing full PPE. During Alert Level 3 and 4 our work is more intense, demanding and stressful, and often involves higher duties, more training, or redeployment that we do not have a choice over. Special allowances must also be made in consultation with LMC midwives and others who do not get paid by the hour on a special work-through bonus. Back pay for hours worked to beginning of Alert Level 3 on 23/03/2020.

3. 14 DAYS PAID SPECIAL LEAVE and free accommodation for self-isolation when required

Because health workers are at increased risk of exposure to the virus, and are worried about bringing it home to their family and those in their ‘bubble’. Many are not easily able to self-isolate at home if tested positive, and for these workers accommodation must be provided, free. Special leave for 14 days of self-isolation must be paid in addition to existing sick and annual leave provisions.

4. immediate and permanent increase in sick days to 30 per annum

This brings all health workers in line with the NZRDA DHB MECA. The current legal entitlement to sick leave is 5 days. Employers have differing arrangements to provide discretionary leave, but this is not always granted to workers, especially low paid and undervalued workers. Ensuring all health workers have 30 sick days per annum will ensure that the health workforce is able to look after their own wellbeing as well as that of their family, and avoid sickness and burnout.


Two consecutive days off per week will help staff to recover and rest properly between rostered shifts. This will reduce burnout and unintended sick calls.

6. Extend the wage subsidy and special leave provisions to casual and part-time essential workers who are out of work due to Covid-19

Causal health workers are normally heavily utilised within the sector. However due to less work availability in certain areas, they have been told that they are not entitled to the wage subsidy scheme because they are essential workers. Many work multiple jobs but because of the rules, they have to choose which organisation to work for and are unable to take up offers of work elsewhere.

who would this apply to?

By “health workers” we mean all workers in the health system in Aotearoa. This includes clinical and non-clinical staff; staff who work in the DHB systems and in the community; unionised and non-unionised.

HSWN applauds the announcement from NZNO on their He Kete Tapuhi Ora Response Package, which outlines similar demands to the ones above and urges them to be adopted by the government and health employers, and extended to all health workers in New Zealand. We see our both our campaigns as complimentary and hope that a combined effort of unions and rank-and-file will result in transformational and long-lasting improvements for health workers across the sector.


share with your co-workers

Workplace organising is most effective when started from the grassroots. Share this campaign with your fellow workers so get as much widespread support as possible. Consider taking one or more of the demands to your employer collectively. If you are in a union, share with your delegate or organiser and ask them to support you in fighting for these outcomes in your workplace.

Printable resources

Are you a supporter of these demands and better working conditions for all health workers? Self-isolating at home but want to show us you care? Thank you! Below we have some printable resources you can put in your window (beside your teddy bears perhaps?!), or put up in your local areas during a walk. If you don’t have a printer, get in touch with us, we may be able to drop some off for you.

Coming soon…

Tell your story

Alongside these demands, our aim is to share as many stories as possible from health workers in Aotearoa working on the front line of this pandemic. This will build understanding and empathy amongst the public of our plight and provide solid reasons for why we are making the above demands. If you would like to share your story, either anonymously on our website or more publically through social media or even other public media platforms, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch.

i’m a non-health essential worker

If you are reading these demands thinking that you deserve the same in your non-health essential service – we agree you do! As a small network made up predominantly of health workers we made our decision on scope based on the resources and capacity we have during this time. However, if you and your co-workers would like to fight for any of these demands or more in your own workplace, please do! Get in touch with us, we will support your struggle and stand in solidarity in any way we can. We’re all in this together!

We are all we really have.

Our time is now.