14 September 2022

National Cabinet agrees to extend pandemic leave payments until mandatory isolation scrapped

| Lottie Twyford
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed pandemic leave payments for people who test positive for COVID-19 will continue until mandatory isolation ends. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Pandemic leave payments for people who test positive for COVID-19 will continue until mandatory isolation periods end.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed state and territory leaders unanimously agreed to keep the payments at this morning’s National Cabinet meeting.

Mr Albanese said ending mandatory isolation will be discussed at the next meeting in a fortnight.

“The principle essentially agreed to by all first ministers is that while the government requires mandated isolation, the government has a responsibility to provide support,” Mr Albanese said.

“We remain obviously of the view that if people are sick, whether from COVID-19 or from other health issues, they should not be at work – that is important.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr welcomed the move to extend the payments beyond the end of this month.

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Workers who cannot access sick leave can access $540. Previously, that figure was $750, but this had been reduced following the reduction of mandatory isolation periods from seven to five days which was agreed upon at the last meeting.

The exception to that rule is for high-risk workers who are still required to isolate for seven days.

Payments will now be limited to a maximum of three payments over six months unless under “extraordinary circumstances”,

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Earlier this year, the Prime Minister had pushed back on calls to continue the payments beyond the June deadline when they were initially slated to end, but he eventually bowed to pressure to do so in July as COVID-19 cases surged around the country.

The Prime Minister said there had been “some evidence” of people defrauding the payment scheme – 2.6 per cent of claims had so far automatically triggered fraud checks and about 15 per cent of those resulted in the claim being withdrawn.

Now a shared scheme between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments since July, it has already paid out $2.2 billion in payments.

Mr Albanese said other countries were beginning to move towards COVID-19 being treated like other health issues, but preparations were continuing regarding how to manage a potential outbreak during the northern hemisphere’s winter. Those arrangements will be discussed between state and territory leaders in two weeks.

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