Sick Leave for Casual Employees

By James Sanders, Associate

On 23 November 2020, the Victorian Government announced that $5 million would be allocated in its 2020/21 budget towards the Secure Work Pilot Scheme (Scheme).

Whilst the Scheme is in its early stages of consultation, it is proposed that casual workers in sectors with high rates of casualisation, such as cleaners, hospitality, security, supermarket and aged care, will be entitled to take up to 5 days of paid sick and carer’s leave each year, paid at the national minimum wage.

The Scheme will be fully funded by the Victorian Government during the pilot phase, with employees needing to apply to the Victorian Government for payment. 

The Scheme has been proposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw a large number of casual employees having to choose between providing food for their families or protecting the health of their fellow Victorians.

Dan Andrews stated in his release:

When people have nothing to fall back on, they make a choice between the safety of their workmates and feeding their family. The ultimate decision they make isn’t wrong – what’s wrong is they’re forced to make it at all.

This isn’t going to solve the problem of insecure work overnight but someone has to put their hand up and say we’re going to take this out of the too hard basket and do something about it – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

The Scheme will initially run over two years (due to commence late 2021 or early 2022), rolled out in two phases, with occupations eligible for each phase to be finalised after consultation with employees, industry bodies and unions.

After the initial two-year pilot program, if successful, it is expected that a levy will be applied to eligible industries to fund the Scheme.

Currently, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act) provides that permanent employees taking paid personal leave, or any employee taking unpaid carer’s leave, must provide evidence of their requirement to take leave to their employer.

It is unclear whether the Scheme will introduce similar requirements for casual employees taking leave under the Scheme. Employers should pre-emptively introduce a policy requiring all employees (including casuals) to provide evidence of their need to take personal or carer’s leave under the Act or the Scheme.

If you would like further information on the Scheme, or assistance preparing a policy, please contact MST Lawyers’ Employment Law Team by email or on telephone +61 3 8540 0200.