There are calls for all Australians to be given 14-days paid pandemic leave so they can stay home if they’re sick.
The call comes after Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told workers not to be “heroes” and go to work if they have a cold.
Unions, Labor and the Greens quickly pointed out many employees don’t have the luxury of paid leave if they are sick.
Labor Union and the Greens respond to CMO
During a press conference last week, Professor Murphy told Australians to stay home if they are sick:
“Everybody stays home when they’re unwell, no matter how mild your cold or your cough, stay home when you’re unwell, and please get a COVID test.
“That’s the best way we’ll find these hidden cases of the virus in our community …
“No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat.
“That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. Please.”
Paid pandemic leave
In response, ACTU secretary Sally McManus pointed out that many workers do not have the luxury of paid sick leave and called for “paid pandemic leave”.
“We need to do everything we can to stop a second wave of infections.
“That’s why we need paid pandemic leave for all.
“People need to be supported to isolate and not work when sick.
Labor also called on the government to help people stay home if they are sick.
This week, the Greens introduced a bill to the Senate for 14-days of paid leave for “all workers”.
More than one third of workers don’t have paid sick leave
According to ABS statistics, 24.4 percent of Australian workers are casuals without any paid leave entitlements.
However, when self-employed workers are added, the total proportion of workers without paid sick leave grows to 37 percent.
Temporary unpaid pandemic leave
Last month, the Fair Work Commission temporarily amended 99 modern awards, and as result, workers have access to two weeks of unpaid “pandemic leave”.
However, experts argue if Professor Murphy’s recommendations are to be followed, then workers need paid sick leave.
Professor Peter Whiteford and Associate Professor Bruce Bradbury write in The Conversation:
“The simplest approach would be to build on our current employer-provided schemes.
“This would see employers pay their casual workers when sick, and then be reimbursed by the government.
“The cost of this is unlikely to be particularly onerous, unless we have a large second outbreak of the virus (which this measure is designed to avoid).
“It would be available only to a subset of workers for a limited period.”
Paid pandemic leave makes sense
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims agrees.
“If we really want to stop the spread of this virus and keep our workplaces COVID safe, then workers need paid leave if they are sick,” he said.
“Because if a worker has to choose between staying home, or paying the rent and putting food on the table, it’s obvious which they will choose.
“And as a result, the entire community will ultimately pay the price.”
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