But 60 per cent of the nation’s 2.6 million casual workers earn more than $400 , according to research from the Parliamentary Library commissioned by the Greens. With the recommended self-isolation period at 14 days, many of those workers stand to lose a significant percentage of their income if forced onto the welfare system.
“We’re all in this crisis together, but instead of looking after each other, the government is throwing some people to the wolves,” Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said. “Unless we support the millions of people reliant on casual and insecure work, they may feel forced to come to work instead of staying at home, which will make things worse for everyone.”
“As we all stay at home more, you still have to pay the rent and buy food, but casual workers stand to lose hundreds of dollars a week under the government’s hard-hearted response.”
Some of the nation’s largest employers including Woolworths, ANZ, CBA and Westpac have committed to giving their casual workers paid leave, subject to differing conditions, in response to the coronavirus crisis.
But small businesses do not have the same financial firepower.
Mr Bandt said the Greens would introduce a bill to give all workers 14 days’ paid coronavirus sick leave, paid for by the government, when Parliament resumes.
A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said they could not confirm the validity of the Greens’ data, which they described as “limited and unsourced information”.
“Social security and welfare payments are a safety net – they are not a wage replacement,” the spokeswoman said. “These payments are intended to provide support to people who may not be able to support themselves.”
The government has also announced a $750 payment to those on government benefits to stimulate the economy while the coronavirus hits.