Paid sick leave for Victoria’s casual workers introduced

Convenience store workers in Victoria are among those who will now be entitled to up to five paid sick days per year, thanks to a new scheme from the state Government.

With the pandemic highlighting the importance of not going into work when sick, the Andrews Government says its Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee means casual and contract workers will no longer have to choose between a day’s pay or their health.

Premier Daniel Andrews said: “When people have nothing to fall back on, they make a choice between the safety of their workmates and feeding their family. The ultimate decision they make isn’t wrong – what’s wrong is they’re forced to make it at all.

“The last two years have shown just how difficult that choice can be for casual workers – so we’re doing what we can to make sure it’s a choice they don’t have to make.”

Occupations included in the first phase include retail and sales assistants, supermarket and supply chain workers, hospitality workers, food trades workers and preparation assistants such as chefs and kitchen hands, aged and disability care workers, cleaners and laundry workers and security guards.

The Labor Government is fully funding the $245.6m scheme over the first two years, which is expected to demonstrate a reduction in workplace injuries and illness, general productivity improvements from healthier workers, and lower staff turnover rates.

The Government will also administer the program directly to workers, minimising the impost on businesses so they can focus on economic recovery.

Ingrid Stitt, Minister for Workplace Safety, said: “We need every worker for the recovery of our economy – the best way to do that is through secure work. This scheme will protect more Victorians and give them the support they need when they’re sick or caring for a loved one.”

Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), said the whilst the two-year pilot is well intentioned, it leaves more questions than answers.

“We acknowledge the Victorian Government’s efforts to provide support to workers who are unwell. However, we are concerned about the ongoing funding of the scheme beyond the two-year pilot, with no details provided about the government’s plans.

“Casuals already receive a loading paid by employers to cover sick leave and holiday pay. This additional payment could dis-incentivise workers to take the step towards permanent employment – which is the ultimate aim of many employers, particularly in a skills crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. It may, unfortunately, also encourage more absenteeism which was a huge challenge through the JobKeeper stage of the pandemic that employers had to contend with,” said Zahra.

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