Aged care workers across Australia will be given the right to paid pandemic leave to encourage them to stay home if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus after the recent surge of coronavirus cases in Victoria. The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission determined that aged care workers, including nurses, should be given paid pandemic leave, but casuals will only qualify if they work “regular and systematic” shifts.
The Commission is yet to decide how the paid pandemic leave would work, but signalled that the provision would likely entitle employees to take up to two weeks’ paid leave each time they are required to self-isolate because they display symptoms of COVID-19 or have come into contact with a person suspected of having contracted it.
The Full Bench also acknowledged that by granting paid pandemic leave, it would have a “significant effect” in residential aged care and social and community services, causing financial difficulty particularly for employers in the subsidised aged care and NDIS-funded disability sectors.
“The overriding factor we have taken into account is that, in the current circumstances, the degree of success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic means that the elevated potential risk to health and care workers of actual or suspected exposure to infection has not manifested itself in actuality,” the Full bench said early this month.
This begs the question: if the coronavirus continues to expand will we see paid pandemic leave implemented in other employment sectors and job classifications?
Unpaid pandemic leave of up to 14 days is still available for 99 Awards, as introduced by the Fair Work Commission on 8 April 2020.
We will keep you updated with all developments with respect to paid pandemic leave. In the meantime, if you have any employment law questions regarding any employment action due to COVID-19 please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Jane Murray or Bernard Cheng.