PM adds clarity to JobKeeper for ECEC and pandemic leave in latest announcement
Following yesterday’s press conference by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, clarifying which businesses, industries and sectors would be affected by Stage Four lockdown measures to combat COVID-19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference in which he addressed two pressing issues for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, namely the provision of pandemic leave, and a possible return of JobKeeper.
Mr Morrison began by outlining the need for further clarification on “important issues like childcare and the like”, committing to work with the Victorian Government in coming days to provide further information.
In relation to pandemic leave, the Prime Minister noted that a decision had been reached yesterday, 3 August 2020, but was held back until after Premier Andrews had made his address to Victorians.
“What we will be doing,” Mr Morrison said, “is establishing a pandemic leave disaster payment. Earlier this year, when we were confronting the bushfires, we made a number of additional disaster payments, particularly for children and families affected by bushfires. What we’re dealing with here is a disaster and we need to respond on the basis of the way we provide support in the midst of disasters.”
A payment of $1500 a fortnight will be made available to those who have to isolate for 14 days “regardless of what job they’re in or employment they’re in.”
“We will make sure that everyone else who finds themselves in this situation and they don’t have that leave available to them through their sick leave because it’s been exhausted will get a $1,500 payment for that fortnight. That payment will be made in the same way that Disaster Recovery Payments are made. People would only need to ring the number 180-22-66, I’m advised from Wednesday, and will be able to update that between now and then if there are any changes to that time frame and they’ll be able to make applications over the phone, which they can do for other disaster-type payments, and that should be turned around fairly quickly” the Prime Minister said.
He confirmed that “people can actually access the payment multiple times if, unfortunately, they’re in a position where they have to self-isolate as a direct requirement on multiple times.”
“That means that those who need to self-isolate as a result of an instruction by a public health officer, there is no economic reason for you to go to work. We are also encouraging the Victorian government to ensure that there are appropriate penalties in place for those who do break those public health notices and they’re told to self-isolate and do go to work. They’re putting their workmates at risk. They’re putting their employer’s business at risk. They’re putting the broader health at risk” he added.
Return to JobKeeper?
A journalist asked Mr Morrison if it would be necessary to have JobKeeper reinstated for those working in the ECEC sector, in light of the changes resulting from a move to Stage Four.
Mr Morrison responded by saying the term “permitted worker” required further clarification, adding “it’s very important that we keep these facilities open so they’re available to people who will need them and there are a number of ways we can do that and that’s what the Education Minister is working through right now.”
He reiterated the importance of ensuring that health care workers, and those who are unable to provide care for their children at home as a result of their work in the community, had a facility available to provide care.
“There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered and we’ll be seeking those answers from the Victorian Government so we can work with the sector to ensure that we can keep those facilities open, support the workers who are in those facilities, in the same way we’d be seeking to support workers in all facilities and all businesses that are impacted by the announcements today” Mr Morrison said.
He noted that the conditions for the rest of Australia remain similar to when JobKeeper ceased for the ECEC sector, and when the “free childcare” model ended, adding “it’s obviously a change to the set of factors we’re dealing with when we made those last set of announcements.”
“In Victoria, I suspect we’ll need to make some changes, but I won’t be announcing those until they’ve been properly worked through and we get some greater clarity from the Victorian Government about who permitted workers are and what that will mean for demand at facilities and then how that can be worked through with the sector to ensure that they remain open, their businesses remain viable and that their workers are supported.”
The Sector will continue to cover announcements and policy changes as they come to light. To access all relevant statements and transcripts from the Victorian Government, please see here.