Last week the original government leave payment scheme, which was designed prior to the mandatory lockdown when few people were in self-isolation, was folded into the Wage Subsidy Scheme while the Government confirmed they were working on arrangements for those in essential work who required sick leave due to COVID-19.
Today the new leave scheme has been announced that will allow essential businesses who are still operating, but are facing a significant loss of business, to pay those workers who need to take leave due to the COVID-19 Public Health guidance. This is at the same rates as the Wage Subsidy Scheme of: $585.80 per week fulltime and $350.00 per week for part time workers.
Prior to this point the employee would need to take annual leave or sick leave (if agreed), or leave without pay unless the employer paid discretionary leave.
Three groups of essential business workers
The scheme is focussed on three groups of essential businesses workers, and employers will be eligible to apply for those employees under the scheme.
- Workers who are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidance because they have contracted the virus or have come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus (or have a dependent they need to care for who is sick or self-isolating)
- Those deemed at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, in accordance with public health guidance and as such should self-isolate for the duration of the lockdown (and potentially longer);
- Those who have household members who are deemed at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, in accordance with public health guidance and as such should self-isolate for the duration of the lockdown (and potentially longer) to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to that household member.
Officials are preparing guidance to support employers and employees to discuss what it means to be at higher risk. This guidance will be made available online before the scheme goes live on Monday.
Payments will be four-weekly with the option for essential businesses to re-apply for those same workers after four-weeks, or make further applications for additional workers who are eligible at any time, while the scheme remains open.
Employers accessing the scheme should pay workers at either:
- Their usual weekly income before COVID-19, if this is less than the relevant rate provided; OR
- A minimum of the full leave rate, if the workers’ usual income before COVID 19 exceeds the relevant rate, and in that case also make best endeavours to pay at least 80 percent of the workers’ usual income before COVID-19.
Employees who are on other forms of paid leave should be paid at their usual full rates of pay.
The details of the scheme are being finalised in the next few days and will be available for online application from Monday 6 April 2020.