In a joint letter, BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott and ACTU secretary Sally McManus urged the government to move quickly to introduce a paid pandemic leave scheme.
They said the scheme should include some key principles in its design, such as:
- Amend the Fair Work Act to incorporate a leave entitlement consistent with the decision of the Fair Work Commission in relation to the Aged Care Awards.
- Provide for reimbursement to business to facilitate the leave entitlement. Mechanisms such as those used for JobKeeper or the Paid Parental Leave payment appear appropriate.
- Funded by the federal government and where necessary the relevant state governments.
Ms Westacott and Ms McManus argued that paid pandemic leave is now an essential public health measure that will combat the recent spike in workplace transmission in Victoria, and that recent events in Victoria have demonstrated that there are insufficient measures in place to enable workers who should not be attending their workplaces to stay home.
Further, while both acknowledged efforts from the Victorian government to introduce its own paid pandemic leave scheme, it also argued that the mechanisms available to state governments to effectively implement and administer such a scheme are inadequate and have seen minimal take-up over recent weeks.
“For many workers who have no or inadequate sick leave, the cost of isolation can be particularly burdensome,” Ms Westacott and Ms McManus said.
“Furthermore, while many businesses have implemented policies to provide for paid pandemic leave, not all are able to do so given the cost, especially in the current circumstances where workers are often required to isolate and get tested on multiple occasions.
“It is for these public health reasons that business and unions believe the federal government, together with relevant states, must urgently provide for and fund a national Paid Pandemic Leave Scheme.”