- More Australian workers could soon find themselves with two weeks of pandemic leave.
- The Morrison government confirmed it is considering the usefulness of the policy as the number of confirmed cases in Victoria continues to climb.
- After the Fair Work Commission (FWC) guaranteed pandemic to aged care workers, it could be extended to Victorian workers and those in high-risk sectors or offered to workers more broadly.
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More Australian workers could be about to be paid to stay home, as the Morrison government mulls a major expansion of newly emerging pandemic leave.
Just days after guaranteeing two weeks of paid conditional leave for aged care workers, the government confirmed it is keeping a “watching brief” on where to expand it.
“It’s a matter I have discussed with the Minister for Industrial Relations and, as you know, there are ongoing discussions between the Government, employer groups and employees about a range of issues managing the pandemic, and that will be one of them,” Scott Morrison told media on Wednesday.
The IR Minister, Christian Porter, said he was still in negotiations on idea but that the government maintained an open stance.
“The government will consider that evidence when it’s made available before deciding next steps,” he said.
Chief amongst those negotiating parties is the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) which has led calls for the leave to be made available to all workers who might be under financial pressure to go to work despite being symptomatic.
“This initiative is essential to defend our country against the spread of the virus, it will save both lives and jobs,” secretary Sally McManus said.
It’s an interesting development that McManus and Porter, representing ideological adversaries, have managed to find so much common ground during the pandemic as the coronavirus creates an immediate need for IR reform.
That’s not to say the Coalition doesn’t maintain some reservations over the policy, viewing it in a similar vein to heightened JobSeeker payments as a potential disincentive to work.
“The other problem is we want to make sure that people, when they can and are able to turn up lawfully to work, are doing so because we don’t want to have the denuding of the staffing in the aged care facilities,” Porter said.
With that in mind, it’s likely the government would be more inclined to target pandemic leave where it recognises a greater need, such as in Victoria where outbreaks are still cropping up, or in other high-risk sectors.
Porter also left the door open to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to expand pandemic leave independent of government.
“The Fair Work Commission has also not ruled out considering applications for similar provisions to those it recently approved for aged care workers to be included in other awards, should the Commission deem it necessary in the future,” he said.
However, with Victoria reporting 723 new cases on Thursday, the idea may need to be considered with a little more expediency, lest no one show up for work at all.
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