Home care workers have been left out of a decision by the Fair Work Commission to allow paid pandemic leave for aged care workers.

HSU National Secretary Lloyd Williams

In a decision handed down on Monday, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the Aged Care Award should be varied to provide for paid pandemic leave.

It said the Nurses Award and the Health Professionals Award should also be varied to provide paid pandemic leave to workers who are employed by residential aged care providers or required to work in residential aged care facilities.

“We are … persuaded by the submissions of the ACTU, the HSU and the ANMF that it is … necessary (for the award) to be varied to provide for paid pandemic leave for employees covered by those awards who are employed by residential aged care providers or are required to work in residential aged care facilities,” the judges wrote in their decision.

Up to two weeks paid leave will be available for residential staff who are required to self-isolate because of COVID-19. The entitlement will apply for an initial three-months.

HSU National secretary Lloyd Williams has welcomed the decision but called for the same leave to be extended to community and home care workers.

“We are very disappointed that home care workers will not have access to paid pandemic leave,” he told Community Care Review.

“Home care workers should absolutely be protected, they are some of the lowest paid and insecure workers in the country.

“They work with elderly people who we know are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

“We cannot wait until the situation gets worse before we extend the leave to home care workers.”

However he said the Commission had acknowledged the merit of providing paid pandemic leave in home care and disability settings before adjourning the matter, so home care hasn’t been ruled out from being included in the future.

“They haven’t said no yet,” he said.

The HSU was continuing to fight for all health, aged care, and disability support workers to have the right to paid pandemic leave,  he said.

Mr Williams also said the union wants to seem more transparent data on the rate of infections amongst health, aged care, and disability workers nationwide.

“The Victorian government provides the rate of ‘healthcare workers’ infected but it is unclear which workers are included in this definition,” he said.

“It would certainly assist our claim and the Fair Work Commission in its decision making to have accurate data.”

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