The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has called for the federal government’s Paid Pandemic Leave to be extended to all aged care workers who need to get tested and self-isolate if they have symptoms of COVID-19, are a close contact of someone infected with COVID-19, or are required to self-isolate or quarantine.
While the ANMF welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of the $1,500 pandemic leave disaster payment, the union remained concerned that the majority of workers in aged care, including those covered by Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) and casual workers on irregular shifts, would miss out.
ANMF’s Federal Secretary, Annie Butler said despite the action taken from the federal government, as well as the recent ruling from the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to grant pandemic leave to aged care workers, more needed to be urgently done.
“Although we welcome these recent measures and they are definitely a great start, the government needs to go further, because too many people remain without access to decent leave,” Ms Butler said.
“The $1,500 disaster payment is only available if a worker doesn’t have sick leave and has been directed by a public health official to self-isolate. This won’t stop workers going to work while they’re feeling unwell because they can’t afford to lose pay.”
Ms Butler added the FWC’s ruling was similarly welcomed, but that many aged care workers would still not qualify for support.
“The FWC’s ruling to grant paid pandemic leave to direct care workers in aged care is welcome, but it only applies to approximately 10% of those workers, as the majority work under EBAs. So, the same problem remains, a lack of support for aged care workers to stay home when they’re feeling unwell,” she said.
Ms Butler said this was a critical measure in preventing the further spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across the community, most particularly in nursing homes, where the virus was rampant.
“When we know the devastating impact the virus has on older people, especially those with multiple chronic illnesses, we need to do everything possible to contain its spread,” she said.
“The system must ensure that any worker who needs to stay home because they have to self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19 or they’re feeling unwell, can afford to and they’re not financially disadvantaged.”