The Australian Public Service Commission has extended paid leave to more than 8000 casual employees who may be forced to miss work because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The commission previously advised that permanent government employees diagnosed with COVID-19 should be given access to sick leave to cover their time away from work, and anyone forced to self isolate because of exposure to the virus, or in a household affected by coronavirus, should be paid discretionary leave if they were unable to work from home.
In a circular issued on Tuesday the APSC extended the provision to casual employees, saying it was aimed at preventing them from going to work against medical advice.
“Due to the current extraordinary circumstances of the outbreak and the potential widespread impact, paid arrangements should also be extended to casual employees who are required to isolate due to COVID-19 exposure or who contract the virus,” the APSC says.
The commission says payment should be determined by agreed or accepted shifts that would have been done during the period of absence, or on the basis of previous or upcoming shifts.
Work from home options should also be considered for casuals where possible.
“This exceptional measure is in place for the duration of the pandemic until advised by the Australian Government Department of Health.”
It said government agencies should discuss options with payroll providers to make sure the arrangements could be put in place quickly.
Labour hire and contract workers miss out
However it stopped short of providing paid leave for labour hire workers and contractors, saying that was a matter for the labour hire company concerned.
The public sector union, which has been campaigning for the provision, applauded Tuesday’s announcement.
“We are glad that the APSC has confirmed that all public sector employees will have access paid leave entitlements, including paid miscellaneous leave or work from home arrangements if quarantined,” CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said.
However she said the union remained concerned about the 23,000 contractors and labour hire workers who have been left in the cold.
“The CPSU is calling on the Morrison Government to ensure that it takes the plight of these 23,000 workers seriously. This is not just a matter of equity; it is about the essential public health response and ensuring government service delivery,” Ms Donnelly said.
The APSC describes COVID-19 as a significant public health issue and says government employers must take a lead in preventing its spread in the community.
However, says “maintaining operations and continuing to serve the community will remain important as we navigate these uncertain times. It will be critical for employees able to attend work to continue to deliver services to the public”.
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