Page 1101 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 3 May 2022

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as casuals, without access to the workplace rights and benefits that come with permanency. Casual workers are not entitled to the same dignity, respect and access to leave that other workers are. When casual workers are sick, they either show up to work or they lose their day’s pay.

Some in this place, and outside of it, will undoubtedly argue that this is how casual workers want it. They will argue that the lack of sick pay is by design and that casual workers do not need sick pay because they get casual loadings and they can choose what days and hours they work. This is not the case. Casual workers are, more often than not, some of the most economically vulnerable members of our community, people who cannot afford to go without a pay cheque or who cannot forgo the casual loading to make ends meet.

As a result of rampant casualisation in our workplaces, many people employed as casuals could, and should, be given permanent work. They work the same hours every week but, unlike their permanent co-workers, they cannot access paid leave. Under the current system of casualisation, workers in industries like retail, cleaning, security, aged care and hospitality will likely never gain access to sick and carer’s leave because casualisation is the new business model of these industries. Now, more than ever, this issue is present in our daily lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inherent flaws in our system. People employed as casuals could not afford to miss a shift. We saw, time and again, that workers were so desperate to earn an income that they would avoid getting tested when they were unwell for fear of testing positive to COVID. When workers had rent to pay and children to feed, they simply could not afford to take a day off. They either came to work and risked infecting their co-workers or they risked missing rent and having no groceries that week.

This system is fundamentally flawed and something needs to change. Introducing sick and carer’s pay for casuals and contract workers does not fix the problem of casualisation, but it does give relief to those employed casually that will be able to access sick and carer’s pay. They will be able to afford to call in sick. The difference that this would make to people’s lives cannot be overestimated.

Like many in this place, I have been employed casually in the past. I know that having sick pay would have made a huge difference in my life. Like most casual workers before COVID became what it is today, I would attend work if I was feeling a bit under the weather. I did not think the risk to others was that bad. I knew that I could not afford to miss one of my few shifts for the week. This is the case for countless casuals. The wider impact on public health is not front and centre when you have bills to pay. COVID has demonstrated the scale of the impact that coming to work sick can have on other employees, customers and the business as a whole.

The ACT government has worked hard for many years to try and improve the lives and conditions of working people in this city, particularly those in transient or unstable industries. The introduction of the Labour Hire Licensing Scheme has helped to ensure rights and conditions for labour hire workers. This scheme has helped to protect these vulnerable workers in unstable and often poor working conditions by

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