Unions call for national coronavirus sick leave, as Victoria introduces scheme

Assistant Secretary of Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Liam OBrien. Source: AAP

The Victorian government has announced a hardship payment for workers without sick leave who are diagnosed with coronavirus or are asked to isolate, and the ACTU wants this expanded for all Australians.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is calling on Scott Morrison to introduce paid coronavirus sick leave at the national level.

“Pandemic leave is essential to beating the virus. If people are forced to come to work when they are sick we will continue to see new waves of workplace infection,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said on Sunday.

“This reform will save lives and shorten the shutdown period."

Victorian has become the second state to introduce a hardship fund for those diagnosed with coronavirus or told to self-isolate without sick leave.

“How can we fully recover from the virus while we are still forcing workers, disproportionately women and young people, to go to work when they should stay home, get tested and protect themselves and the community?” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Federal Government could get this done next week and we call on them to move urgently to provide universal paid pandemic leave and protect all workers and the community from further workplace transmission.”

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the hardship fund would apply to those diagnosed with the virus, or those told to self-isolate because of close contact with someone who has been diagnosed.

They will have access to a $1,500 payment if they do not have access to paid sick leave through their employer.

Mr Andrews said some people's employment was tenuous and they needed support.

"It is, I think, clear that there are some people in the community that perhaps don't have access to sick leave, for instance," Mr Andrews said.

"It is our view that we have to try and remove that barrier where people are, sadly, making the choice that public health is less important than the welfare and survival, in a financial sense, of their family,” he said.

"They're wrong to make that judgement but I can appreciate that that is a judgement that is being made."

Queensland announced a similar $1,500 fund for resident workers impacted by the virus earlier this month.

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