Paid pandemic leave for aged care workers extended by Fair Work Commission

On the 29th of July, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made an urgent ruling, granting aged care workers up to two weeks paid leave to stop staff from working while sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was required because, at the time, peak bodies attested that providers could not provide paid leave for staff without governmental support. 

Since then, the FWC made the decision to extend that ruling until 29th of March, 2021, rejecting the oppositions of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI). 

The current grant offered by the Federal Government to assist providers, the Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant, is set to expire on the 30th of November. Beyond that date, the government would no longer be offering providers the cost of staff paid leave once a staff member was unable to work due to a positive diagnosis with coronavirus, making the provider pay out of pocket for sick leave. 

The ACCI opposed the extension, saying that it was “excessive” compared to the current situation Australia is in with the handling of coronavirus.

The AFEI has also opposed the extension, citing how few active cases remain in the aged care sector, and the level of infection control measures that has been offered to assist workers and providers. 

“It was only a matter of weeks ago that the resilience of the aged care sector and its staffing model was under severe pressure, at least in Victoria,” said the Commission’s full bench.

“It is too early to say that the current improving situation will be sustained, and it is essential that infection control measures such as the paid pandemic leave entitlement remain in place for the time being.”

The Commission continued that should the infection rates remain low and stable, there would be few providers who are eligible to claim the grant, regardless of the extension. 

“It is appropriate therefore that it operate in a time-limited way and be the subject of regular review,” they concluded.

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