A Government funded trial providing sick pay to some casuals has kicked off in Victoria.  The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee scheme allows some casual employees to apply to the government for payment if they meet certain criteria.  The growing list of occupations covered now includes fuel retail staff the operation of the scheme and the impact on businesses is the focus of this weeks HR Highlight.

The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee scheme is intended to reduce the instances of employees presenting for work when they are unwell because, as casuals, they have no paid leave.  This trial scheme, launched in the midst of a pandemic is targeted at food, hospitality and retail staff, but more occupations are being added to the list regularly, with fuel retail recently added.

“What businesses want to know is how this impacts them, and the short answer is that for now, it doesn’t impact them at all” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

From 14/3/2022, eligible casual staff are able to apply to the government to receive up to 5 days per year paid at the national minimum wage.  Evidence requirements such as medical certificates as well as employment, minimum hours worked and proof of a lack of access to leave are also required.

“The scheme is funded by the government and staff apply and claim themselves directly, so there is very little that the businesses need to do at this point” adds Elisha.

“But what some are asking is does this scheme mean that all casuals will soon have sick pay and what happens when the 2 year trial runs out – who is paying for it then…and these are very good questions” continues Elisha.

While the government has confirmed that if the scheme is extended beyond the 2 year trial period it will have to be funded by a business levy, there has been confirmation about the shape, nature or quantum of such a levy.

“There is no clarity over what happens after the end of the 2 year government funded trial, or what happens if the predicted $245.6 million is exceeded.

“There is also the genuine issue of conflict with the national legislative definitions of casual employees and the function of casual loading or stipulated casual rates that include a premium for the lack of paid leave for casual staff.  A business levy would result in the business paying for the leave of casuals twice” added Elisha.

This sentiment is echoed by the Federal Industrial Relations Minister Michaela Cash who said “Victorina employers should not have to pay a casual worker tax, which is nothing but a tax on jobs and a handbrake on our economy.  Employers already pay a 25 per cent loading to casuals, in lieu of entitlement”.

“While the stated aim is to reduce illness and injury at work, the trial is widely considered problematic and as having potentially perverse outcomes, like exacerbating staff shortages in critical industries as a result of spurious claims” adds Elisha.

Bottom Line

“The bottom line for businesses in Victoria is that there is nothing they need to do now, but that feedback is sought through to ACAPMA if the business is experiencing issues related to the operation of the scheme” concludes Elisha.

For more on the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee trial see – https://www.vic.gov.au/sick-pay-guarantee

Here to Help

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au  , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/   for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)