The Victorian government will provide up to five days of sick and carer’s pay for some workers employed in highly casualised industries, as part of a two-year pilot.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday noted that workers often must choose between a day’s pay and their health.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“This isn’t going to solve the problem of insecure work overnight but someone has to put their hand up and say we’re going to take this out of the too hard basket and do something about it – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The COVID-19 aged care crisis in Victoria, which led to 655 deaths, has highlighted the problems that can occur under a highly casualised workforce, where many employees may have more than one job or work at multiple sites.
Under the state government’s 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’re sick or when they need to take time off to care for someone else.
Tuesday’s state budget will provide $5 million for consultation on the design of the scheme to work through issues including required documentation and protections for workers.
The pilot will roll out in two phases over two years with the eligible sectors to be decided after a consultation process with workers, industry and unions.
Casual and insecure workers in the eligible sectors will be able to pre-register for the scheme, and an education campaign will be delivered to ensure workers are aware of the support available when they need sick or carer’s pay.
The state government will pay for the pilot, but any future ongoing scheme will be subject to an industry levy.
The announcement has come as Victoria reported its 24th consecutive day of no new COVID-19 cases or deaths, with just one active case remaining in the state.
Victorians who test positive for COVID-19 or need to quarantine due to a close contact can currently access the state government’s COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment and the Commonwealth’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.