• Posted on: 31/03/2021
  • 2 minutes to read

PSA home support members have told a parliamentary select committee they need more sick leave to keep themselves and their clients safe.

The members appeared before the Education and Workforce Committee hearing submissions on a bill to increase minimum sick leave entitlements from five to ten days a year.

PRESSURE TO WORK

PSA member Louise Lin spoke of how she felt pressured to go in to work while sick with coughs and colds when she first started her job as a home support worker.

“As we were so short staffed, if we don’t go to work, there could be a chance that no one will look after our clients that day.

“It would also put more pressure on coordinators and colleagues to scramble to cover our shifts.”

Louise was not entitled to sick leave as a casual contractor or in her first six months of work. Instead she had to take unpaid leave despite worrying about how she would pay the rent.

She also worried about putting her elderly clients at risk if she went in to work sick.

“My clients often have multiple diagnoses so while a cold is not so serious for me it could have a major impact on them.”

SICK LEAVE INADEQUATE

Experienced home support worker and longtime National PSA delegate Jenny Goodman also described how she’d had to use all her annual leave after using up her sick leave one winter when she was suffering from shingles and whooping cough.

“That meant I wasn’t able to take a break for twelve months,” she recalled.

The new bill also aims to better enable employees to use sick leave when spouses, partners or someone they care for is sick or injured.

Jenny also spoke movingly about having to use annual leave when her husband was in hospital three years ago.

“For one month until the decision was made to turn off life support I visited him every day in hospital… If I hadn’t accumulated some annual leave by then, it would have made a time of grief even more stressful.”

Other PSA members also presented submissions about the need for increased sick leave on behalf of the Council of Trade Unions.

HOLIDAYS ACT REFORMS

The Council of Trade Unions is welcoming other changes to the Holidays Act announced by the Government in February including:

  • From their first day of employment, employees will be entitled to bereavement and family violence leave, and will begin accruing sick leave
  • Bereavement leave will be extended to cover more family members
  • Parental leave override will be removed so returning parents are paid at their full rate for annual holidays

The CTU says the current Act has been poorly understood and has resulted in many working people missing out on their entitlements. These changes should make implementation easier.

 Main photo caption: PSA member Louise Lin with PSA national secretary Kerry Davies, and PSA policy advisor Andrea Fromm (rear)