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Ride-share drivers, childcare workers and hairdressers are among more than 400 types of casual jobs that will now be eligible for guaranteed sick and carer’s pay under an expansion of a Victorian government-funded pilot program.
Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled Australia’s first sick pay guarantee trial for casuals in March 2022, to run over two years with $245.7 million in funding.
Once accepted into the pilot, workers can begin claiming sick and carer’s pay immediately.Credit: Shutterstock
It provides casual workers who are eligible with up to 38 hours a year of pay for sick and carer’s leave that they would not have been entitled to from their employer. About 1.8 million hours of pay has been covered so far and more than 76,000 casual and contract workers are registered.
The Andrews government will now expand the number of job types that can claim these benefits and extend the pilot to March 2025, as it remains well under budget.
This is partly because uptake has been lower than expected, with fewer registrations and lower amounts of leave claims keeping costs under the initial forecast.
Among those who can now sign up and check if they are eligible are community support workers, fruit pickers, tourism and outdoor recreation staff, and those working in the arts.
Once accepted into the pilot, workers can begin claiming sick and carer’s pay immediately. Those already on the scheme will be able to continue doing so for another year.
“People shouldn’t be forced to choose between going to work sick or putting food on the table – we’re proud to be expanding the Sick Pay Guarantee because we know how important it is to support Victorians,” Employment Minister Ben Carroll said.
“Insecure work has terrible consequences, and we know how important it is for people to have the support and certainly, they need to stay home and recover if they are sick or caring for a loved one.”
When first announced, it was expected about 150,000 people would take advantage of the program, so it is currently at just over half its capacity.
Payments are made at the national minimum wage, now $23.23 per hour, and workers can claim between three and 12 hours per day.
The pilot’s first phase focused on industries with the highest rates of workers without access to sick pay benefits. This included hospitality, food preparation, retail, supermarkets, security, and aged and disability care.
Sick leave for casual workers became a key issue during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns as authorities worked to contain outbreaks among industries where staff could not afford to miss work because of illness.
Childcare workers, shown protesting for better work conditions in Melbourne last year, are among the workers now eligible for guaranteed sick and carer’s pay.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui
Margaret Kenyi, 35, is a disability support worker from Wyndham Vale who signed on for the pilot in its first year.
Kenyi said she had used it a couple of times in 2022 but only once in 2023. “It was a big help to be honest,” Kenyi said. “For us who are working as casuals, we don’t get annual leave.”
Kenyi said she would never come to work sick, so it was a relief to know falling ill wouldn’t prevent her from paying her bills. “It was scary to take a day off knowing you wouldn’t get paid, so I’m very grateful,” she said.
“I hope it’s going to continue for some time because at the moment, most jobs these days are for small companies that only like hiring people casually.”
The pilot program can be accessed through the Service Victoria app or by visiting vic.gov.au/sickpayguarantee, with information available in 19 languages.
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