Unions NSW has urged state government agencies to do everything they can to support the public service in receiving the COVID-19 jab, following reports that paid vaccine leave has been made available to public sector workers.
In an internal circular issued by the Department of Premier and Cabinet on July 16 — and reported by Guardian Australia — the state government has given all of its departments and agencies the green light to provide support for staff who want the jab.
The updated guidelines noted that agencies can give staff who wish to receive the vaccine ‘access to special leave of up to two hours or an equivalent payment at base rate of pay’, in addition to existing leave entitlements. However, staff who experience side effects from the jab will reportedly need to use their paid sick leave.
The guidelines noted that managers can ask for proof of vaccine appointments when assessing leave applications, and has directed them to ensure frontline services continue to be delivered. Staff have also been encouraged to utilise flexible working arrangements to assist with their vaccination.
In a statement on Monday, Unions NSW said that the guidelines, while welcome, needed to be strengthened to maximise the number of public sector workers getting the vaccine.
“This entitlement needs to be strengthened beyond an aspiration into an obligation,” Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said.
“Agencies must do everything possible to support staff getting vaccinated. That would both speed up the vaccination effort and set the right example to other employers.”
Morey said it was ‘mystifying’ that the state government chose to issue the directive to its agencies internally, rather than publicly.
“As the premier and chief medical officer have themselves said, we desperately need to get jabs into arms. It needs to be as easy and attractive as possible,” he said.
Unions NSW is also calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to push for the return of JobKeeper at National Cabinet, as well as for a universal entitlement to paid vaccination leave for all Australian workers.
“Given the current outbreak is now considered a national emergency, the case to revive Jobkeeper is undeniable,” Morey said.
“To get this under control workers need to know there is zero incentive to leave home. Jobkeeper is tried and tested. It works. Gladys Berejiklian must insist on this at National Cabinet and not take no for an answer.”
NSW recorded 145 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, as pharmacists across the state began administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 40.