United Workers Union calls for benchmark pandemic leave

United Workers Union files FWC application to have paid pandemic leave entitlements inserted into a number of federal awards relating to health workers.

United Workers Union is calling for health workers, including cleaners, to be supported with pandemic leave.

United Workers Union, along with a number of other health unions, have filed an application with the Fair Work Commission to have paid pandemic leave entitlements inserted into a number of federal awards relating to health workers.

These measures will apply to both casual and permanent staff and be made up of two components:

  1. Where a worker is required to self-isolate, or is prevented from working by government decree, they will receive two weeks paid leave per instance.
  2. Where a worker is infected with COVID-19, they receive an immediate credit of 20 days personal leave (so they could then take personal leave while off work due to infection).

The awards the union is advocating to update cover front line health workers including hospital health workers in cleaning, catering, ward support, as well as nurses, radiographers and other hospital staff; ambulance officers and paramedics; aged care workers in residential and homecare settings; workers in disability support, in home and residential settings; Aboriginal health workers and workers in supported employment.

United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said now is the time for Australian workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis to be provided with special pandemic leave that will protect both themselves and the communities they serve.

“Changes need to be made to provide significant back-up and support for workers to deal with this current global health crisis and to better prepare for any future pandemics we may face as a society.

“During the current pandemic we are seeing some employers providing special paid pandemic leave as a result of collective action taken by workers. However, in the majority of cases this is occurring on the basis that workers first use up all or part of their other leave entitlements.

“The health award change we’re advocating for will set a benchmark to make sure this does not happen. Australian workers will not lose all of their leave entitlements and have nothing left once a pandemic is over, or have to go without pay if they’re prevented from working.

“We’re calling on all employers to treat their staff fairly. Pandemic leave of two weeks is the minimum standard employers should be adopting, alongside providing all necessary personal protective equipment and opportunities for testing.

“We don’t want any worker to be left behind due to this global health crisis. These changes to awards will be a step in the right direction as we continue to fight for a wage subsidy for all workers, regardless of their visa or employment status,” Kennedy said.

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