State Government to fund pandemic leave

20 August 2020

After months of campaigning by the ANMF (SA Branch) and other unions, the State Government will unveil a taxpayer-funded pandemic leave scheme for casual workers next week, after an appeal for the Federal Government to chip in was rejected, InDaily reports.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said today that the one-off payments would range up to $1,500 and target casual workers who are forced out of work due to forced quarantine and do not have any other sick leave entitlements.

He said the Government was currently assessing eligibility requirements for similar schemes announced this week in Queensland and the ACT, with a SA announcement scheduled for early next week, InDaily reports.

Victoria also has a $1500 pandemic payment in place, subsidised by the Federal Government, which is targeted at people who are required to self-isolate but don’t have any sick leave.

Mr Lucas said treasury officers had been in discussions with the Federal Government to determine whether South Australia also qualified for Commonwealth support, but the request was knocked back.

The ANMF (SA Branch) welcomed today’s announcement, saying it had strongly advocated for paid pandemic leave.

“This is a positive move for our members, who are at greater risk of exposure to the virus than the general community,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“As recently as this month, the ANMF (SA Branch) joined with SA Unions representatives to advocate directly to the SA Treasurer for pandemic payments to be extended to SA, as necessary.

 “In addition, we raised, and will continue to advocate for COVID-19 to be presumed to be contracted in the course of employment for the purposes of Workers Compensation coverage.’’

The Queensland and ACT payments are made available to people if they have been directed by public health officers to self-isolate, if they have a positive COVID-19 test or if they are not covered by federal awards granting them some sick leave, InDaily writes.

Mr Lucas said the eligibility requirements in the eastern states were “the sort of scheme that we would be looking at here”.

SA’s chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier has expressed support for a paid pandemic leave scheme in the state to ensure people self-isolate without fear of the financial repercussions.