Casuals and gig workers were among the millions who didn’t get paid sick leave, with research by the Australia Institute finding 37 per cent of employees were not paid sick leave.
Another 12 per cent only had access to pro-rata part-time sick leave, which is based on the number of ordinary hours worked in a two-week period.
“With incomplete sick leave coverage, workers face a devil’s choice: between staying home to protect themselves, their colleagues and the public; or going to work regardless, simply to make ends meet,” said Dr Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work.
Stanford said it was clear the poor sick leave coverage, as well as people running out of sick leave, was contributing to the “epidemic” of employees attending work with possible COVID symptoms.
Not only does going to work unwell risk the health of colleagues and the community, but it also poses risks to the individual.
According to the vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Moy, trying to ‘fight’ the virus and not taking the time to rest and recover could set back your recovery.
Younger people were the most likely to be going to work sick but were also the most likely to not have any sick leave.
Women were also more likely than men not to be paid sick leave, according to the research.
Not having sick leave was not the only reason people attended work while unwell. Some worried about ‘letting down’ their employer or colleagues, or felt there was no one else to step in.
Sick leave should be expanded
Stanford called on the Government to expand sick pay entitlements to cover all workers, including those in casual employment and self-employed situations.
The Federal Government, by contrast, has actually been eroding sick leave entitlements, according to the report, by reinforcing the shift toward insecure working arrangements.