May 30, 2023

Casual care workers in Victoria can rest easy if they get sick this flu season

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Around one in five casual and contract workers work more than one job to earn a living – many without access to sick and carer’s pay. [Source: Shutterstock]

Flu season is upon us, a time that was dreaded by casual or contract care workers who formerly weren’t paid sick leave when they or a loved one fell ill.

But eligible workers in Victoria can still access the Sick Pay Guarantee scheme which pays them up to five days a year of sick or carer’s pay at the national minimum wage or $21.38 per hour as of July 1, 2022.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many care workers were forced to choose between a day’s pay or their health. 

Last year, we heard of providers offering incentives for staff not to take sick days even if they were ill as the health and aged care sector battled chronic staff shortages amid Delta and Omicron COVID-19 outbreaks.

To be eligible, workers of at least 15 years of age must work 7.6 hours a week on average and not be eligible for paid sick leave under the Fair Work Act.

Workers can register for the two-year pilot program with over 60,000 already accessing it as of March 2023.

The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee was implemented in March 2022, building on the temporary measures implemented during the pandemic, including the COVID-19 Worker Support Payment (now the Australian Government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment) and the COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment.

As the only State or Territory with a scheme like Sick Pay Guarantee, the program provides care workers with a safety net to take time off when they‘re sick or need to care for loved ones. The program is also expected to reduce workplace injuries and illness, improve general productivity and lower staff turnover rates.

Supporting these workers and creating a sustainable financial plan for those accessing and working in the sector has come into the spotlight, with the Federal Government encouraging care workers to have their say on a draft of its National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy.

The Victorian Labor Government is fully funding the scheme until March 2024.

Find out more about the Sick Pay Guarantee scheme here

To apply for payment if you’re eligible, visit the Service Victoria website.

Should a scheme like this be implemented across Australia to support networks for casual and contract care workers? Let us know.

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