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Greens call for urgent nation-wide extension of workers compensation benefits to cover COVID-19

Too many workers don’t have leave entitlements to allow them to economically survive a diagnosis of COVID-19. Frontline staff in people-facing industries are among the most vulnerable, given the required interactions with hundreds of people a day, but often have few legal protections should one of these interactions make them sick.

Greens MPs are moving across the country to extend workers compensation coverage to workers who contract or are suspected to have contracted COVID-19.

The Bills, the first of which has just been introduced in the NSW Parliament, will apply to full time, part time, contract and casual workers. This bill will cover:

  • workers who are off work having been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • workers who are self-isolated and awaiting COVID-19 test results
  • casual workers who are tested for, or diagnosed with, COVID-19 within 21 days of last working, and
  • workers who die from COVID-19.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt said:

“The Greens want to ensure that workers affected by coronavirus get supported through this crisis and this is a very straightforward proposal that all other political parties at State and Federal levels can support.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will be off work in connection with the coronavirus because they’re sick, in self-isolation or their workplace has had an incident.

“Governments are scrambling to support workers in this time of crisis, but part of the solution is right before their eyes.

“If we change the law so that sick or coronavirus-affected workers are automatically entitled to existing workers’ compensation schemes, they will maintain an income without imposing costs on their employer.

“This simple move also means we don’t have to create new payment systems and the delays that can come with that, because we’re using well-known and proven institutions who know how to get money to workers when they need it.”

Greens MP and spokesperson for workers’ right David Shoebridge said:

“We can and we must act urgently to provide far more protection for workers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“So many workers in industries like retail, hospitality and the entertainment sector, are employed as casuals and without these protections if they fall sick they will get nothing.

“The Federal and state governments are providing stimulus packages and bailouts to businesses, they must now act to protect workers.

“No worker should suffer a financial cost because they got sick at work or have to isolate after attending work.

“The Greens are calling on all political parties to support these changes  and act now before the COVID-19 crisis is at its peak’.

“All states and territories should consider introducing similar legislation, the COVID-19 crisis is a bigger challenge than anything we’ve seen in our lifetime, this is not a time for half measures."

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