The Victorian public service will give paid time off to more than 300,000 public servants to get booster shots against COVID-19.
Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas announced the move on Friday, giving VPS staff up to half a day off work to get the jab.
He said the leave would be available for full-time, part-time, and casual staff who were long-term and regular workers.
“We recognise that as an employer we do have a duty of care to our public servants, that they also have a responsibility to the community at large to make sure they are not a source of infection in those interactions they must necessarily go about in their day-to-day functions,” Pallas said.
The leave is an extension of similar provisions provided to workers to get their second vaccination jab, with agencies and departments to carry the cost unless a substantial additional amount occurs.
“Generally that would be in circumstances where they have minimum staffing requirements and they have to back-fill,” Pallas said.
“We have had no claims for any agency so far. I’m not saying we won’t have any but this looks like it will be borne internally by those agencies.”
The treasurer said the state government was leading by example in providing the leave to its employees, and urged private businesses to “at least” match the public sector’s effort in providing leave.
“I know that so many employers across this state take their responsibilities both as employers and to their customers seriously, I ask them to redouble their efforts to make sure they keep their employees and their communities safe,” Pallas said.
He said any decision for a third vaccination dose to be mandatory for all Victorian Public Sector workers would be initiated by the health minister.
“From the government’s perspective we are looking at how the third regime will be applied, increasingly it is a regime that should be treated much the same as the second dose was,” Pallas said.
“Our expectation is people should do it, they should do it for their health, they should do it for their community, but we are not ruling out the need for mandating going forward.”
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said he had not received any request for advice from the government about mandates for the public service.
“[I’d be] very happy to assess that and provide advice if requested,” Sutton said on Friday.
“The benefit of the third dose is very clear, but there is a lot about our personal responsibility that is going to get us a long way there, so the question of a mandate isn’t a settled one necessarily.”