Three of Australia’s biggest employers have pledged to pay casual staff who contract coronavirus or who are required to self-isolate, following extensive lobbying from employee groups.
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13 March: CommBank: Yahoo Finance understands CommBank will provide around 10 days “special leave” for casual staff as the Covid-19 crisis continues.
“We have special leave arrangements in place for casual workers to ensure that if they are unwell or need to self-isolate and can’t work, they are able to do so,” a spokesperson said.
CommBank employs around 52,000 people internationally and around 40,000 in Australia.
12 March: Woolworths: Woolworths, the country’s largest private employer, said it will pay casual staff for shifts they would have otherwise worked. The supermarket giant employs around 55,000 casual workers.
“As Australia’s largest private employer, we recognise we have a key role to play as part of the broader public health response,” Woolworths chief people officer Caryn Katsikogianis said in a statement.
“We’ve made it clear to our team that we’ll look after anyone impacted by the outbreak whether they’re full-time, part-time or casual.
“This is not only the right thing to do by those team members, but also an important measure to ensure everybody in our business takes appropriate action in response to public health advice.”
Additionally, staff who have to care for those who have been isolated, like children, will also be covered.
Wesfarmers also owns Bunnings, Kmart, Target and Officeworks.
"Wesfarmers’ retail businesses - Bunnings, Kmart, Target, Catch and Officeworks - are planning to provide support to casual workers impacted by coronavirus and will be communicating details to their teams in coming days," a spokeswoman said.
11 March: Telstra: Woolworths’ announcement came after Telstra announced it would also provide casual workers with up to 14 days leave paid at their base rate if they contract coronavirus, or Covid-19. Staff who have carers’ responsibilities triggered by the health crisis and those who need to enter into self isolation will also be paid.
Casuals whose shifts are affected due to a retail store or workplace closure will also be covered by this.
The telco also said the majority of its 29,000 workers have the ability to work from home, with casuals making up around 40 to 40 per cent of its retail staff.
“This is an unprecedented situation – one that requires us to step up, be there for our people and give those who need it most the support and reassurance to get through this difficult time,” a Telstra spokesperson said.
Yahoo Finance has contacted Woolworths for comment.
Unions call for two weeks guaranteed leave
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for a guarantee of two weeks paid leave for all workers, including casual workers, who have to isolate or who are ill.
“If working people are forced to choose between going to work sick or being able to pay their bills and feed their families then we are creating a disaster scenario for public health,” secretary Sally McManus said.
“With 1 in 3 workers in Australia not having any access to paid leave we need the government to step in and ensure that employers are able to fund proper leave for workers who have to self-isolate due to public health concerns. Working people in Australia are already struggling with a slowing economy and domestic spending is drying up across the nation.”
The government today announced its $17.6 billion stimulus package, which includes a promise that casual workers who need to self-isolate will be eligible for Newstart payments.
However, McManus said Newstart payments are generally below what casual workers are earning, and as such still pose a major disincentive to self-isolate.
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