Opposition parties have pressed the Morrison government to roll out government-funded paid pandemic leave for all Australians as data shows more than a million workers in Sydney and Melbourne do not have sick leave, and more than 800 reports of COVID-19 at workplaces in Victoria in the last week alone.
The government on Monday announced a $1500 coronavirus disaster payment scheme, but it is available only to Victorians. Unions, Labor and the Greens say even that falls short of paid pandemic leave because it is not generous enough and applying for it is more difficult than taking a sick day.
Greens analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showed 546,000 primarily casual workers in Sydney and 507,400 in Melbourne did not have paid leave, giving them an incentive to go to work even if they have coronavirus symptoms. According to ABS statistics, about a quarter of workers nationwide don’t have paid sick leave.
Virus cases are escalating in Victoria, with WorkCover, the state’s health and safety regulator, receiving 812 reports from employers just in the last week notifying them of staff who had been at work with coronavirus. Before last Tuesday, employers were not required to tell WorkSafe about coronavirus cases at work, but even prior to that, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services had passed on 1282 COVID-19 notifications to the regulator.