Minister for Health and Aged Care Hon. Mark Butler yesterday announced that the new, as yet unnamed, COVID-leave payment to replace the High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment will only include aged care workers.

The High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment paid up to $750 if workers without leave entitlements lost more than 20 hours in a week due to a COVID-19 infection.

The previous payment, which ends today, was available to aged care, disability care, Aboriginal health care and hospital care.

Minister Butler said the new payment, which will begin on 1 April, will be Commonwealth funded while the previous version was funded by a coalition of the Commonwealth and the states.

“Obviously, that is about providing support to those workers, but importantly… there is no disincentive from them isolating and not going to work and potentially exposing residents of their aged care facility to a virus that is very dangerous for the most vulnerable members of our community in aged care.”

Minister for Social Services Hon. Bill Shorten said during an interview on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing that the decision was about high-risk settings.

“If there is a high risk setting that (the Department of) Health identifies then I think we will need to be consistent for people who work in high-risk settings,” he said.

“It’s a matter of getting that definition right.”

While Minister Shorten was speaking specifically about the disability care sector, the statement gives hope that ATSICCHOs may be included in future if the ‘high-risk’ definition is revisited or applied more widely.