The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), is calling for paid pandemic leave to be extended to all those working in aged care 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.
The ANMF welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) ruling that aged care workers, on three awards including the Nurses Award, be granted paid pandemic leave and yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister for a $1,500 pandemic leave disaster payment but says these measures still don’t go far enough. The ANMF is concerned that many aged care workers, whose employment is covered by Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) and which represent the majority and casual employees working irregular shifts, will remain without access to paid pandemic leave.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler says paid pandemic leave must now be urgently extended to all workers in aged care.
Ms Butler said this is a critical measure in preventing the further spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across the community, most particularly in nursing homes, where the virus is rampant.
“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. 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 said.
“Equally, the FWC’s ruling to grant paid pandemic leave to direct care workers in aged care is welcome but it only applies to approximately ten percent 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. 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.
“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. One of the most effective ways to assist containment is to introduce paid pandemic leave across the board for those working in aged care. The ANMF is calling on the Federal Government, as a priority, to introduce paid pandemic leave for all aged care workers to help combat COVID-19 and save lives.”
ANMF media release authorised by Annie Butler, ANMF Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.
The ANMF, with over 295,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.
ANMF media inquiries: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390