Alarming new research has revealed that 70 per cent of Aussies have said they would present to work with cold or flu symptoms, sparking fears the coronavirus could be impossible to contain.
The findings come from an independent survey – conducted in June this year – of a nationally representative panel of 1000 Australian employees, commissioned by cleaning company Cleancorp.
For months federal and state governments have been telling Australians to stay home and get tested for COVID-19 if they feel even mildly unwell, but it appears that the message is not getting through.
On Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged the state’s spike could largely be traced back to spread between employees.
“About 80 per cent of our new cases since May are being driven by transmission in workplaces,” Mr Andrews explained.
The research found that 54 per cent of Australians would present to work with a headache and 38 per cent said they would still go into the workplace with a stuffy or runny nose, sore or tingly throat or fatigue, all of which could be early symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu.
Thirty-two per cent said they would present to work with a cough, 22 per cent would do so with a stomach ache, and 20 per cent would go in with muscle or body aches and chills.
When asked to reveal why they would present to work with these symptoms, the most common answer (chosen by 58 per cent of respondents) was that the symptoms were not serious enough to justify taking time off work.
Forty-two per cent said it was because they would have too much on at work, with no-one else available to do their job.
Twenty-nine per cent thought that their employer would not regard their symptoms as serious enough, while an equal 24 per cent did not want to use up their sick leave or said they would have pressure from their employer to present to work.
The survey highlighted a growing area of concern relating to casual or contract workers who do not receive payment for sick or annual leave. Around 21 per cent of respondents admitted they would present to work with cold or flu symptoms because they could not afford to not get paid.
According to parliamentary figures, there were 2.6 million casual workers employed in Australia in August last year, and they were predominantly employed in retail, social assistance services, construction, health, education and road transport – workplaces that, especially in the current coronavirus climate, are generally difficult to operate with workers in self-isolation.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been leading the calls for the government to provide paid pandemic leave at the full rate of pay for everyone who needs testing or must quarantine.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said there was mounting evidence from Australia and overseas that vulnerable workers without sick leave could not afford to take the action needed to prevent further spread of the virus and often avoided getting tested and being quarantined.
“It is clear our country must do much more to contain and live with the coronavirus,” Ms McManus said. “What we have done so far is not enough and has exposed the holes in our defences.
“All workers need to know they will receive 100 per cent of their wage while waiting for results and while in quarantine.
“If we do not urgently adopt this approach, insecure low-paid workers are more likely to avoid testing because they are scared of losing their job and being left with nothing.
“Paid pandemic leave costs are a drop in the ocean compared to ongoing lockdowns.”
Do you think the government should provide a paid pandemic leave scheme for casual employees? Are you worried people will spread the virus by turning up at work while they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms?
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