Casual and on-demand workers feel forced to work if unwell

6 November 2022

Covid has not gone away. In fact there are concerns a new wave of infections may be building. And while those who have the means — including people who can work from home — may be able to stay out of Covid’s way, not all workers are so fortunate. Especially vulnerable are casual and gig-economy workers. If they don’t show for work, they don’t get paid. There is a fear some of these people will nonetheless choose to work, even if they have Covid, simply because they have no choice.

A recent survey conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, found almost forty-percent of casual workers go to work if they are injured or unwell:

It found 37 per cent of workers in insecure jobs — including contractors, casuals, part-time and gig-economy workers — say they’ve worked while injured. Labor market economist Leonora Risse agrees it’s a big problem — and it extends to workers who turn up at work when sick. “We’ve always had some degree of insecure work in the workforce, but this is shining a light on the need to address it,” she says. Dr Risse says that employers may need their workers, but they also need them to be healthy.

I’m not sure what plans Australian governments have if there were to be another major surge in Covid cases, but it seems like lockdowns, and emergency payments for workers stricken with Covid, are off the table. But people feeling compelled to go work, so as to keep a roof over their head? This cannot end well.

Update: Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s chief medical officer, confirmed in a television interview this morning that Covid infections have increased in the past week.