8 Feb 2021

New subsidy kicks in for workers waiting for Covid test results

11:58 am on 8 February 2021

From tomorrow, employers can get $350 to help pay workers waiting for Covid-19 test results, if staff cannot work from home.

Portrait of asian woman drive thru coronavirus covid-19 test by medical staff with PPE suit by nose swab. New normal healthcare drive thru service and medical concept.

Photo: 123rf.com

Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said the Short-Term Absence Payment would also cover the cost of sick leave for workers with no sick leave available.

She hoped the payment would encourage more people to do the right thing and get tested if they were feeling unwell.

Many people worried about getting a test if it meant they could not work, or if they did not have any sick leave, Sepuloni said.

"We need people to take the test if they feel unwell and removing any barriers is important."

Employers can contact the Ministry of Social Development to apply for the one-off payment to help pay workers who need to stay home while they await test results.

The payment can also be provided for close contacts of a person being tested for the virus, when close contacts are asked by health agencies to stay at home.

The payment, which was announced in December, is available for self-employed workers and parents who need to miss work while children's test results are pending.

"We've made it easy to apply for, with a very simple application criteria," Sepuloni said.

Minister for Workplace Relations Michael Wood said the new payment would help businesses do their bit to keep coronavirus out of the community.

"We've listened to businesses and workers alike who said we needed a way to support businesses to help workers stay home if they're getting tested," Wood said in a statement.

The new payment would complement the existing Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme for businesses with staff who could spread an infection, he said.

"The Short-Term Absence Payment can be used to cover the cost of a worker's sick leave for those who are feeling unwell and is also available to enable businesses to continue to pay workers who aren't eligible for sick leave or don't have any sick leave left.

"This helps everyone stay home and stop the spread of Covid-19," Wood said.

The government was also planning to increase the minimum sick leave entitlement to 10 days a year, he said.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the payment was "an important provision in supporting working people to take time off from work while awaiting Covid-19 test results".

"The system around this payment does rely on employers doing the right thing; insisting that working people stay away from work if that is what medical professionals have indicated is necessary. We know that when employers stop paying people or reduce entitlements, some working people are forced to return to work when they should not," Wagstaff said in a statement.

"The key objective is to keep our team of 5 million well. In order to achieve this we need to remove all barriers and disincentives so that people keep themselves, and others, safe. It will be important to review the implementation of this policy in due course."

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