Paid leave for child's vaccination? Morrison urged to move on bill

Trade union lays out demands as COVID cases in major cities mount

Paid leave for child's vaccination? Morrison urged to move on bill

The government should provide paid leave for all employees so they can accompany their children to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). In a statement, ACTU said all workers, including casual ones, should be granted paid leave when they take their children to get the jabs – as well as additional leave if the child should become ill as a result.

"Sydney is still seeing hundreds of COVID cases a day and Melbourne over a thousand,” said ACTU assistant secretary Liam O'Brien. “Over the next month borders will be coming down around the country and COVID will soon spread to every state – we need to get kids a first dose before school returns next year and the best way to do this is give all working parents, including casuals, paid leave to get their kids vaccinated.”

According to O'Brien, the government should not make the same mistake on vaccine rollout failures that prompted extended lockdowns and border closures.

"Parents must be supported to get their kids vaccinated and look after them as they recover from routine side effects," he added.

Read more: Paid leave ruling for casuals could result in $40B back-payment

Amid the spread of the new Omicron variant, O'Brien said the government should do everything to increase vaccination rates and ensure that children also get the jabs - as well as supporting staff.

"Unions fought for and won paid vaccination leave for over one and a half million workers to get vaccinated. We now must ensure every parent is supported to get their kids vaccinated as soon as possible," said the ACTU official.

What does this mean for employers?

ACTU has yet to disclose the specifics of their call for a child vaccination leave for employees. However, the proposal is similar to the latest bill passed by the New York City Council in the United States, which amends the city's Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.

Under the bill, employees who’re considered parent or legal guardian of a child would be granted "four hours of COVID-19 child vaccination time per vaccine injection for each child." This will allow the said employees to be absent from the workplace as they accompany their kids to get vaccinated and later take care of them as they experience the side effects of the jabs. In New York's bill, the child vaccination time would be equivalent to the employee's regular rate of pay and would be in addition to the worker's accrual or use of existing safe/sick time.

Employers are also not allowed to require the employee to render additional workdays to compensate for their absence or find another one to cover their hours. They may, however, ask their staff to present proof that their child was vaccinated within seven days.

Australia's vaccination programme for children aged five to 11 years old will begin on January 10, according to the Department of Health. Children will receive two dose of the Pfizer vaccine, eight weeks apart, with their dose one third of those for people aged 12 and above. Appointments can now be booked using the Vaccine Clinic Finder, according to the department, with dates available starting January 10.

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