Casual aged care workers will be eligible for paid pandemic leave after a Fair Work Commission decision to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The ruling grants paid pandemic leave to staff working in residential aged care under the Aged Care Award, the Nurses Award and the Health Professionals Award.
The variations will take effect from Wednesday and will remain in effect for three months, the commission said in a ruling released late on Monday.
Many of the recent deaths in Victoria's second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities, which prompted the Fair Work Commission to act.
"There is a real risk that employees who do not have access to leave entitlements might not report COVID-19 symptoms which might require them to self-isolate, but rather seek to attend for work out of financial need," it said.
"This represents a significant risk to infection control measures.
"These matters weigh significantly in favour of the introduction of a paid pandemic leave entitlement."
There are now 84 cases linked to St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner, 82 at Estia Health in Ardeer, 77 at Epping Gardens Aged Care, and 62 at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon.
Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has 53 cases linked to it, and 57 are associated with Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said people who are going to work sick, including those who work at aged care facilities, are the "biggest driver" of the state's second wave.
But the union movement said many of those people could not afford not to work.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the decision does not go far enough.
"We welcome the decision but this still does not remove the trap door for casual workers with irregular hours," she said in a statement.
"What this decision shows is that there is a need for paid pandemic leave and while the economy is struggling it should be government funded for all workers so no-one is even considering having to go to work with mild symptoms just to pay the bills."
The Victorian government is now providing a $300 payment for workers who can't go to work after testing for COVID-19.
A further $1500 hardship payment is available if the test result is positive.
The Fair Work Commission said the pandemic leave will:
- apply to workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate because they display COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with a suspected case
- is limited to up to two weeks' paid leave on each occasion of self-isolation
- not be paid to workers who are able to work at home or remotely during self-isolation.
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