Sick pay takes the stress out of a sick day

Margaret Kenyi, a casual disability support worker, was one of the first to sign up to the Sick Pay Guarantee

Having access to sick pay means Victoria’s casual workers no longer have to choose between going to work sick or missing out on pay.

When the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee launched last year, thousands of casual and contract workers had access to sick and carer’s pay for the first time. It meant people in insecure work would no longer be forced to choose between going to work sick or missing out on a day’s pay.

One of the first to sign up to the nation-leading program was Margaret Kenyi, a casual disability support worker. Margaret came to Australia from Uganda with her older sister and grandma in 2005 and is now a single parent to two young boys. She thinks it’s great to have access to a financial safety net.

‘As a single parent and casual worker, if sometimes I might not be able to go to work because I’m not well, or one of my boys is not well, I’ll be able to apply for sick pay,’ she said. ‘With the children anything can happen, then you still get that payment and get bread on the table.’

Marcus Maisano is another casual worker who joined the program in its first year. The 33-year-old is working as an optical dispenser to gain practical experience while he studies optometry.

When Marcus heard about the program while he was at the Midsumma Carnival, he immediately signed up. He works closely with patients, which means he can’t go in to work when he’s sick. He also has caring responsibilities, so having access to carer’s pay has provided financial support when he’s needed to take his mother to specialist medical appointments at short notice.

‘Signing up for the Sick Pay Guarantee was a no-brainer. Now when I need to take a day off, I don’t have to stress, it gives me peace of mind,’ he said.

Since the pilot launched in March 2022, more than 76,000 casual and contract workers have signed up. They work in jobs ranging from retail assistants and baristas to security guards and fast food cooks. And now, thanks to a recent program expansion, more than 400 additional jobs are eligible, including community support workers, fruit pickers, hairdressers, fitness instructors, early childhood workers, teachers’ aides and rideshare drivers.

Eligible workers who sign up can access up to 38 hours a year of sick and carer’s pay. Payments are made at the national minimum wage ($23.23 per hour as at 1 July 2023), fully funded by the Victorian Government.

The 3-year pilot program will run until 13 March 2025, providing much-needed support for casual workers like 23-year-old Esteban, who was born in Colombia and has been living in Australia for one year. Esteban is studying English during the week and working as a casual cleaner in different locations around Melbourne on weekends.

As a casual worker, Esteban doesn’t get paid leave. However, when he’s not working, he still needs to pay his bills, which can be challenging. Because he signed up for the Sick Pay Guarantee, Esteban was able to claim sick pay when he had a cold and missed a day of work.

Having access to sick pay is important to Esteban. ‘I’m grateful for the help, the Sick Pay Guarantee has helped me a lot.’

For more information and to sign up, check the Service Victoria app or visit Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee.