Covid-recovery time should be counted as 'special leave'

Covid-recovery time should be counted as 'special leave'

Employers should not take their employees' Covid-19 recovery period out of their annual leaves which are guaranteed by law, labour rights advocates say.

The call was made by Migrant Workers Rights Network, after it learned that many companies are deducting their employees' annual leave -- which are capped at 30 days -- after their workers took the required time off to fully from Covid-19.

As a result, many workers have used up most, if not all, of their sick and annual leave days, said Suthasinee Kaewleklai, of the Migrant Workers Rights Network, noting the quarantine alone lasts to 14 days.

"Once an infection is confirmed, a worker will need to take more time for treatment, which means after recovering [from Covid-19], they will only have a few days [of leave] left. If they fall sick from other illnesses, they won't have enough days off to seek treatment," she said.

She also called on companies to pay their workers' wages in full during the recovery period, after the network learned that many employers are choosing to pay a fraction of what are due to their workers when they were unable to work.

As such, Ms Suthasinee urged the government to declare the Covid-19 treatment period as special leave days separate from the 30-days annual leave. Workers must also be entitled to a full pay during the special leave days, she said.

Speaking on the World Day for Decent Work which fell on Oct 7, Ms Suthasinee said the government must step in to assist workers who lost their jobs or whose income has plunged due to the pandemic.

She said many migrant workers could not access state assistance, such as Covid-19 testing and vaccination, because of the language barrier. Some were told they could not return to work until they obtained a proof of vaccination.

Migrant workers, including those not covered by the social security programme, should be able to receive vaccination free of charge and access state-sponsored relief schemes such as the Khon La Krueng ("Half and Half") co-payment subsidy. "Migrant workers play a part in making our economy prosper. They pay taxes and so they are entitled to the labour rights," she said.

Thanawan, a factory worker in the Om Noi municipality of Samut Sakhon, said she spent 16 days in hospital for Covid-19 treatment and another four days recuperating at home. She said the period should count as special leave days because there is no telling how long the pandemic would go on for, she said.

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