Thousands of healthcare workers in high-risk settings who test positive for COVID-19 will soon no longer be eligible for federal financial support.
The current High Risk Settings Pandemic Payment scheme will be replaced by a new program available only to aged care workers from Saturday, but the move will still leave thousands of healthcare and disability workers who contract COVID-19 without any financial support.
The current scheme provides a lump sum payment of up to $750 for workers who have taken unpaid leave because of COVID-19 in high-risk settings, including the aged care, disability care, aboriginal healthcare, and hospital care sectors.
Health Minister, Mark Butler, said that the new program aims to “provide support to those workers and ensure there is no disincentive for them to isolate if they contract COVID-19.”
The Federal Government has been progressively winding down financial support for people who have lost work due to COVID-19.
Payments of up to $750 were first introduced in August 2020 for people who tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have access to sick leave.
The Government introduced targeted financial support for workers in high-risk settings instead of this scheme, which came to an end last year.
Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, argued that it was not sustainable to have a system in place where the Government “steps in permanently”.
The move has caused concern among disability care advocates who fear that the workers who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 will no longer have access to financial support.
The impact of the decision will be felt most acutely by workers in casual or part-time roles, who are more likely to have limited or no access to sick leave.
The Australian Services Union has criticised the Government for failing to provide adequate support to workers in the healthcare and disability sectors, and for failing to consult with unions and workers on the changes to the payment scheme.