The Fair Work Commission handed down a decision to bring in paid pandemic leave for workers in the Aged Care industry. On 29 July 2020 changes to three Modern Awards will be made to give paid pandemic leave to Aged Care Workers.
The Awards that will now have paid pandemic leave are the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award and the Health Professional Award. The employees that will have access to the paid pandemic leave are those that work in the aged care industry and cannot perform their job from home.
This announcement comes as a result of the increased coronavirus cases and the concern that Aged Care workers on low incomes will be under financial pressure to continue to work even if they have symptoms of the virus. The decision considered the need to protect those in our community that are in aged care and in the highest risk category of dying from the coronavirus. The decision to offer paid pandemic leave will be an incentive for workers not to come to work if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with a known covid case.
There is discussion for the Government to fund the paid pandemic leave. It has been proposed that employers in the Aged Care industry should be able to apply for funding to cover the costs of giving paid pandemic leave to their employees. However, no firm announcement has been made if the Government will fund this additional leave or if employers are required to absorb it.
The Fair Work Commission has stated that the features of the paid pandemic leave is as follows:
- the leave entitlement is for workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate because they display COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with a person suspected of having contracted COVID-19;
- the leave entitlement is limited to up to two weeks’ paid leave on each occasion of self-isolation;
- workers who are able to work at home or remotely during self-isolation are not entitled to paid leave;
- the entitlement will extend to casual employees engaged on a regular and systematic basis, and would entitle them to payment based on an average of their earnings over the previous six weeks; and
- the entitlement will initially operate for a period of 3 months.
The paid pandemic leave entitlement will commence on 29 July 2020.