More than 55,000 casual and contract workers have signed up to an Australian-first sick pay scheme in its first year, the Victorian government has revealed.
Workers without sick leave entitlements are allowed to access up to 38 hours of sick and carers pay under the taxpayer-funded scheme, which has seen more than 80,000 payments since March last year.
The leave was paid at the national minimum wage of about $20 per hour.
Retail and sales assistants, hospitality workers and aged and disability care workers were the most highly represented among those registered for the program.
Other eligible workers included security guards, cleaners, cooks, fast food workers and kitchen hands.
Victorian Employment Minister Ben Carroll said the scheme, which is nearly halfway through a two-year pilot program, would help businesses become safer for their empoyees and be more productive as organisations.
“The pandemic showed us just how many casual and contract workers have been forced to choose between a day’s pay or their health,” Mr Carroll said.
“Around one in five casual and contract workers works more than one job to earn a living – many without any access to sick and carers pay.
“The program is delivering sick pay to workers in industries with the highest rates of casual and contract workers whose work hours are often unpredictable and low-paid, and where people facing disadvantage are over-represented.”
The Andrews government has spent $245.7m on the Sick Pay Guarantee pilot, but it is yet to be confirmed whether the scheme will continue beyond March 2024.
“Workers shouldn’t feel forced to go to work sick because they can’t afford to miss a day’s pay,” Mr Carroll said.
“This scheme creates more security for Victorian casual and contract workers, supporting them when they’re sick or caring for a loved one.”