The nature of casual employment means that casual employees are not ordinarily entitled to paid leave such as annual leave or personal/carer's leave. In order to compensate for the loss of these entitlements, casual employees are usually entitled to a casual loading rate under relevant awards and agreements which affords them a higher rate of pay.
The Victorian Government has recently introduced its Sick Pay Guarantee, which provides casual and contract workers from selected industries with access to five days of personal and carer's leave each year to be paid at the national minimum wage.
The Victorian Government undertook a consultation process with key stakeholders in 2021. According to the Public Consultation Report (available here), prior to the pandemic, 84% of casual workers regularly attended work when they were sick and 40% said that they did not feel supported to stay home when they were sick. The outcome of the consultation process was the introduction of the Sick Pay Guarantee scheme in March 2022. The Victorian Government expects the scheme will result in a reduction of workplace injuries and illness, general productivity improvements and lower staff turnover rates.
The Sick Pay Guarantee is a pilot scheme, which is fully funded by the Victorian Government, and will operate for two years.
To be eligible for the Sick Pay Guarantee, a worker must meet all of the following criteria:
- be 15 years or over;
- be a casual employee or self-employed with no other employees (such as a sole trader or an independent contractor);
- not be entitled to paid personal, sick or carer's leave in any of their jobs;
- work physically in Victoria no matter where they live;
- have the right to work in Australia;
- work in an eligible occupation; and
- work an average of at least 7.6 hours per week in the eligible occupation.
Workers who satisfy the above criteria will be eligible to up to five days, or 38 hours, of paid personal or carer's leave each year, which will be paid at the national minimum wage of $20.33 an hour or $722.60 a week. The eligible occupations are currently:
- hospitality workers;
- food preparation assistants;
- food trades workers;
- sales support workers;
- sales assistants;
- labourers in the supermarket supply chain;
- aged and disability carers;
- cleaners and laundry workers; and
- security officers and guards.
A full list of positions that fall within these occupations are set out in the Sick Pay Guarantee Program Guidelines (available here).
What does this mean for employers?
The Sick Pay Guarantee scheme does not impose any obligations or pass on any costs to employers during the trial phase. However, the Victorian Government has indicated that should the scheme be implemented on an ongoing basis it will be funded through a business levy.