Victorian paid leave proposals

The Government recognises the myriad challenges with our industrial relations system highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, however the Victorian Government’s announcement today regarding sick leave entitlements for casuals and other workers raises a number of major issues.

“The central problem with the Victorian proposal is it seems to start with a small, government-funded pilot and intends to finish with what would be a massive tax on Victorian businesses who would be forced to pay for both a 25 per cent additional loading in wages to compensate for casuals not receiving sick leave and then having to pay for an industry levy to fund sick leave as well,” the Attorney-General said.

“After Victorian businesses have been through their hardest year in the last century, why on earth would you be starting a policy that promises to finish with another big tax on business at precisely the time they can least afford any more economic hits?”

“The fact is that the proportion of employees who are casual remained largely unchanged for almost 25 years leading into the COVID pandemic.”

“In fact, it was during the Hawke and Keating Governments that casual employment rose from about 18 per cent of employees to 24.4 per cent where it remained broadly steady thereafter.”

“The better policy approach is to strengthen the ability of workers to choose to move from casual to permanent full or part-time employment if that is what they want to do. This is what has been under discussion in the industrial relations working group process between government and employee and employer representatives over recent months.”

“It must surely be a better approach to let people have greater choice between casual and permanent employment than forcing businesses to pay a tax so that someone can be both a casual employee and get more wages as compensation for not getting sick leave – but then also tax the business to pay for getting sick leave as well.”

“That would be a business and employment-killing approach.”

The Attorney-General said the Victorian Premier and Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations used the lack of access to paid leave during the pandemic as a key driver for today’s announcement, despite their own provision of a $450 isolation payment for people waiting on COVID-19 test results and the Commonwealth’s $1500 payment for people who test positive for COVID-19 or are required to isolate and don’t have access to paid leave.

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