The Victorian’s recent announcement of a trial funding sick leave for casual workers for the next two years has been met with resistance and apprehension by businesses already struggling with two years of COVID restrictions and uncertainty.
The trial is currently being funded by the Victorian Government costing $245.6 million to taxpayers. The scheme provides five days (38 hours) of paid sick or carers leave for workers in a number of sectors including: hospitality, retail, aged and disability care, cleaning and laundry, and security. At the conclusion of the trial, this cost would be shifted to employers via industry levy.
Australia’s leading workplace and advisory firm representing over 31,000 businesses responded to the announcement of the trial: “The last two years have probably been the most challenging for businesses in a very long time. Just as we are coming through the other side, the last thing struggling businesses need is to be slugged with another levy.” said Employsure Business Partner, Emma Dawson.
Currently, casual workers are entitled to a higher rate of pay as they are not entitled to benefits enjoyed by permanent employees, such as paid leave (e.g. paid sick leave, annual leave and long service leave). This is not anticipated to change during or after the trial.
“Employers are already meeting their obligations by providing casual workers a loading, along with penalty rates, overtime, and allowances in accordance with the modern award. A levy to fund this scheme would be a significant double dip scenario discouraging the engagement of casual workers and would only hurt the people it aims to help.” Ms. Dawson continued.
Other industry groups have also criticised the plan with the Australian Business Group calling for the scheme to be dropped as well as the Victorian State opposition indicating their intention to scrap the plan should they be elected.
“While good intentioned, it remains to be seen if the scheme will accomplish its lofty goals of providing security to casual workers. The signal this sends out to employers is that they need to be forced to do the right thing when most employers are already doing so – as the old saying goes – good help is hard to find”