Union Calls for Paid ‘Vax Leave’ for All Australian Public Servants

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
June 28, 2021 Updated: June 28, 2021

The New South Wales (NSW) government should lead the nation by example and provide all public sector workers paid vaccination leave, the state’s peak union body said.

“One of the barriers workers are facing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is finding the time to do it while they are working,” Unions NSW wrote in a post on Twitter. “That’s why we’re calling on the NSW government to lead by example and provide a 1/2 day of paid leave to all workers so they can get vaccinated.”

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said the cost of missing work is one element that is preventing people, especially those who are insecurely employed, from getting their vaccination.

“As things currently stand, employees have no right to get vaccinated on work time,” Morey told NCA NewsWire. “Workers can’t even use their sick leave to get vaccinated under the national employment standards. This needs to be fixed immediately.”

“Every barrier and impediment to vaccination must be removed as soon as possible.”

Morey said the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian could “get the ball rolling” by immediately instructing all departments to give all workers a half-day of paid ‘vax leave,’ including casuals and contractors.

“We know that contract and casual workers have often been overlooked in the COVID response,” he said. “The federal government must fund a half-day of pay for all those insecurely employed workers to get the jab.”

The NSW government is the state’s largest employer, with over 450,000 workers in 2020, including ongoing, temporary, and casual employees.

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Sydneysiders queue outside a vaccination centre in Sydney, Australia, on June 24, 2021. (Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been calling for the implementation of four days of paid ‘vax leave’ for workers in aged care and disability services across the nation.

Under the recommendation, workers would get two days off per dose—one to get the shot and another to recover from the side effects.

“Workers in aged and disability care are being asked to go without pay for multiple days to get the vaccine and deal with routine side effects,” ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said. “This is a huge financial disincentive for low-paid, insecure workers.”

Some major employers in the private sector have also implemented paid vaccination leave programs.

Currently, three of the major four banks in Australia offer special COVID-19 vaccination leave, with the outlier being the National Australia Bank (NAB), which has been criticised by the Finance Sector Union (FSU) for being the only big four bank to reject giving workers special COVID-19 vaccination leave.

“Unfortunately, NAB has rejected the leave proposal, making the bank an outlier among the largest corporation in the finance sector which have granted COVID-19 leave including CBA, Westpac, ANZ, Australian Super, HESTA, and Care Super,” FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said.

In a letter to NAB, Angrisano said paid vaccination leave was becoming an industry standard and urged the bank to join the other companies in making a “positive contribution” to controlling the spread of COVID-19.

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A nurse fills a syringe from a vial containing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine during vaccination day for health workers at health centre Posto Central in Maricá, Brazil, on April 27, 2021. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Australia’s vaccination rollout has been plagued with setbacks, including supply issues, changing health advice for AstraZeneca, and increasing rates of vaccine hesitancy.

Several surveys and studies, including one by the Australian National University, reveal that many Aussies are not keen to receive the COVID-19 jabs.

In May, the university revealed that while nearly 60 percent of Australians would “definitely” get a safe vaccine, more than 80 percent are concerned about the side effects of currently available jabs.

“On top of that, 50.4 percent of people who said they wouldn’t take a vaccine said their decision was based on recent news about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting,” study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu