Victorian café workers to get paid sick leave under government pilot program

Pauls Professional

The Victorian State Government will provide casual workers in the hospitality industry with five days of paid sick leave per year, under a two-year pilot program announced on 14 March.

The scheme targets five heavily-casualised work sectors, including hospitality, supermarket workers and cleaners, and offers five annual days of sick or carers leave at the national minimum wage.

Ingrid Stitt, the Victorian state Minister for Workplace Safety, says the pandemic exposed access to sick leave emerged as a “gap in the safety net”.

“What we saw throughout the pandemic was people having to make the really difficult choice of losing a day’s pay or staying home so they didn’t pass on their illness to their work mates.

Ingrid says the trial is expected to reduce workplace illness and generate savings for businesses by lowering staff turnover and instances of sickness spreading through a work force.

Industry body Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA) has released a statement saying the hospitality industry had not been consulted about the scheme, and operators are “bewildered”.

“If casual workers are still being paid casual loading rates, why is the Victorian government topping up for sick pay?” says R&CA CEO Wes Lambert.

How the scheme will be funded following the two-year pilot is undecided, according to the minister, but an industry levy is possible.

“We will be looking at the results of the trial and none of that is settled yet. An industry levy is one option,” says Ingrid.

The United Workers Union, which represents many of the estimated 150,000 workers covered by the trial, has welcomed the announcement and called on the federal government to follow suit.

“If the Covid pandemic has shown us anything, it is that casual, precarious and insecure work has ramifications for the health of the whole community,” the national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said.

Workers can check their eligibility for the scheme through the Victorian government’s Service Victoria website.

Send this to a friend