The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria has put the issue of leave payments under the microscope.
While the largest viral clusters have been around aged-care facilities and meat processing plants, there are also strong links to other industries with highly casualised workforces.
As an employer, you have a duty to provide a safe working environment for your employees. This includes identifying and controlling risks due to COVID-19. You should have a COVID-19 plan in place that accords with the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles. These principles require you to actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work.
You have the right to implement safety measures – such as temperature checks – in your workplace. You may also direct that people stay home if they are sick and that they inform you if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
If you direct an employee to stay home in these circumstances, they are not entitled to be paid unless they :
- Have paid sick leave;
- Have other types of paid leave; or
- Are enrolled in the JobKeeper program.
This has led to some casual workers turning up to work despite being sick and not informing their employers of this for fear of losing much-needed income.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
To help combat the problem, the Federal government has introduced a $1,500 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
The payment is available for employees who have been told to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 and need to miss work, which might apply where the worker or a dependent family member either has COVID-19 or is a close contact of someone with COVID-19.
Employees are eligible if they:
- Are 17 years old or older
- Are resident in Victoria; and
- Have no income from paid work, including sick leave entitlements.
You cannot access the payment if you receive:
- Income or earnings from paid work, including paid sick leave
- Income support payments from the government, including JobKeeper; or
- The Victorian Coronavirus Worker Support Payment.
Some Victorian workers who are ineligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment may be eligible instead for the $450 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment. This is available to workers who have obtained a COVID-19 test and have been ordered to self-isolate until the results come through.
The Fair Work Commission has also issued determinations varying the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award and Health Services Award to provide two weeks of paid pandemic leave to affected employees.
Communication is key
If your workers are employed on a casual basis, inform them about their sick leave options, including the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment.
Early communication of these entitlements can help build a more congenial relationship between employer and employee while also reducing the risk that your workers will come to work whilst sick.
Given the intricacies involved, please get in touch with us on (03) 9592 3356 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can assist your business with any aspect of pandemic leave entitlements for your employees.