The federal government will provide ‘pandemic leave disaster payment’ of $1500 to Victorians who need to self-isolate for 14 days and have no sick leave entitlements.
The new payment was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday afternoon to prevent workers without sick leave from going to work when they should be isolating at home.
Morrison confirmed that the disaster payment would be accessible multiple times to workers if necessary, to prevent them from breaking self-isolation requirements.
In Victoria, workers who are infected with COVID-19 have been a major source of community transmission. 429 new cases were recorded in the state on Monday.
The payment will not apply to people who are already receiving other government income support, like JobKeeper of JobSeeker.
“This pandemic is a disaster,” Morrison said on Monday.
“And we need a disaster payment when it comes for people who have to isolate for a period of 14 days through no fault of their own, regardless of what job they’re in or employment they’re in. They need that support.”
Morrison made clear this is a ‘disaster payment’ and applies solely to people in Victoria, the only state or territory in Australia currently classified as in a ‘state of disaster’.
“If another state were to be in a position – and God forbid they were – that there was a disaster of the scale that we’re seeing in Victoria, then a disaster payment of this nature would be entered into, but that would be done on the same basis of what will be established with Victoria,” Morrison said.
Morrison said the scheme was modeled on a similar payment already in place by the Victorian government that primary covers short-term visa holders. The federal government’s scheme is designed to help “everyone else”.
The $1500 payment comes after weeks of mounting pressure on the federal government from the business community, unions, and the federal opposition to introduce a paid pandemic leave scheme.
Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, told the ABC’s 730 program on Monday night the disaster payment was a welcome start but doesn’t go far enough.
“$1500 a fortnight is about the minimum wage. The average wage is more than double that. So, for some workers, you’re basically saying to them, if you’ve got to isolate, that you’re going to have a significant pay cut,” McManus said.
“We’ve just got to take away that disincentive. It’s a hole in our defences.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the government was playing “catch up”.
“A good step, but we need to get ahead of the virus,” he wrote on Twitter.
When Labor called for paid pandemic leave, there were 200 coronavirus cases.— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) August 3, 2020
Five months and 18,000 cases later, the Federal Government will pay some Victorian workers who can’t take sick leave.
A good step, but we need to get ahead of the virus. We can’t keep playing catch up.