PM announces pandemic leave ‘disaster payment’

‘The Morrison Government cannot stop at this half-measure’

PM announces pandemic leave ‘disaster payment’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the Federal Government will introduce a $1,500 disaster payment for workers who have to self-isolate due to coronavirus, but do not have leave entitlements.

The payment will be available to workers in Victoria who need to self-isolate for two weeks but do not have sick leave or payments through JobKeeper or JobSeeker.

Moreover, the payment could be extended to other states and territories if similar situations occur there.

Morrison added that there would be no reason for people who were meant to be self-isolating to go to work.

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"That means that for those who need to self-isolate as a result of an instruction by a public health officer, there is no economic reason for you to go to work," said Morrison.

Workers in Victoria will be able to apply for the payment over the phone from Wednesday.

"We anticipate this payment will be needed for some time," he said.

However, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the $1500 a fortnight is the minimum wage when the average wage is double this amount.

This means that nearly every fulltime worker will still suffer a financial penalty for isolating. Only full wage replacement, like sick leave, can fix this.

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ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, said that any money for workers who are saving lives and saving jobs by staying home and doing the right thing is welcome.

However, this payment does not address the full scale of the problems which fully funded Paid Pandemic Leave would address, she added.

“We need a new, temporary, paid leave entitlement so that working people will not lose wages or risk their job to isolate or get tested when they need to,” said McManus.

“This payment will mean that nearly all fulltime workers who are forced to rely on it will take a pay cut while they isolate. This will mean that a financial penalty still remains, this just weakens our COVID-19 defences.

“The system of calling 1800 numbers, instead of being paid as normal is yet another barrier.”

McManus added that the Morrison Government “cannot stop at this half-measure”.

“We need federally funded Paid Pandemic Leave for all workers who need to get tested and isolate. That’s how we ensure that this pandemic ends as quickly as possible with as few people infected as possible.”

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