FWC rejects paid COVID leave call
PHARMACY workers covered by the Pharmacy Industry Award 2020 will not be entitled to paid pandemic leave should they be required to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
Rejecting the proposal made by health unions, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that pharmacy workers were not at “an elevated risk of infection”, when compared to other retail employees.
We do not consider that there is a necessity to establish a paid pandemic leave entitlement for any employee who has actually contracted COVID-19 as a result of infection in the workplace and has to take time off work, since the employee (even if engaged on a casual basis) will be entitled to payment under the applicable workers’ compensation scheme in that circumstance,” the FWC said.
In its submission arguing against the introduction of paid pandemic leave, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said pharmacy employees were likely to face a lower risk of infection than other retail workers due to the “hygiene requirements and the brevity of contact with particular customers”.
However, FWC documents noted that TerryWhite Chemmart Armidale trainee pharmacy assistant, Letita Bryant, had given evidence that there had been confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Armidale and some customers at the pharmacy were not practising social distancing.
The tribunal noted that, “her evidence was that if she needed to isolate or felt COVID-19 symptoms, she would feel pressured to continue working unless she tested positive for the virus”.
“She said that if she had to go unpaid for two weeks because she was self-isolating, she would be unable to pay her rent, bills and groceries, which would significantly affect her household,” the FWC said.
Dispensary technician, Lyndelle Potter, reported that the pharmacy that she works in had implemented a number of measures to mitigate against the risk of infection, including floor markings, reminders to sanitise regularly and the provision of face masks for staff.
However, she noted that some customers openly coughed in the pharmacy, and expressed concerns over having no income in the event of being required to self-isolate.