Premier Daniel Andrews has also announced the State Government will put $5 million towards designing a two-year pilot program to prevent sick workers coming into their workplaces under its latest Budget.
Under the Secure Work Pilot Scheme, casual and insecure workers – including aged care staff, cleaners, hospitality staff, security guards, and supermarket workers – will be paid the national minimum wage when they are sick or when they need to take time off to care for someone else.
The consultation for the Scheme will work out issues such as required documentation and protections for workers and which occupations would be covered with unions and industry groups before it is rolled out in two phases over two years starting in late 2021 or early 2022.
Workers deemed eligible for the scheme will be able to pre-register, with an education campaign to raise awareness of the supports available.
Scheme to be funded by industry levy
But while the Government will pick up the bill for the pilot, any future ongoing scheme is expected to be subject to a “modest” industry levy – meaning aged care providers would need to chip in.
Unsurprisingly, the Opposition, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federal Government has labelled the scheme a “business and employment-killing approach”, saying that many businesses would struggle to accept more taxes.
“[Businesses] would be forced to pay for both a 25 per cent additional loading in wages to compensate for casuals not receiving sick leave, and then having to pay for an industry levy to fund sick leave as well,” Federal Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said.
But Mr Andrews has labelled insecure work as “toxic” and “bad for all of us”.
“You don’t want to be served in a restaurant by someone who is sick. You don’t want your elderly parent or grandparent to be cared for in a private aged-care facility by someone who’s sick,” he said.
Federal Government says workers should be offered more choice for permanent employment
However, Mr Porter maintained a better approach would be to give people more choice between casual and permanent employment through industrial relations reforms which are currently being considered.
Currently, aged care has a high number of part-time and casual staff which led to significant issues issue during Victoria’s second coronavirus wave.
The Federal Government mandated that workers had to choose one main site to minimise the risk of infection from aged care workers working across multiple sites.
However, the unions said this was unfair to workers, reducing their capacity to earn a working wage.
As we reported here, Victoria announced in June that it would offer a $1,500 pandemic leave payment to workers aged to self-isolate without access to sick leave, while the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has also extended the two-week entitlement for paid pandemic leave for aged care workers until the end of March 2021.
Victoria has recorded 655 COVID deaths among aged care residents or 72% of the total coronavirus deaths in Australia.