The Albanese Government must explain its decision to end the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

These payments, introduced by the Morrison Government, provided up to $750 for people who missed work after testing positive for COVID-19, while isolating as a close contact or caring for a positive case.

Australians are rightly asking themselves: who picks up the tab for complying with mandatory home isolation now and what is Labor’s answer to workers who can’t pay their bills turning up to work anyway?

Casualised industries are hit hardest by the public health restrictions and that means this cut to support will hurt Australian women most.

It’s not fair that small businesses should pick up the tab for an outsourced responsibility of the federal government.

It is true the Morrison Government announced the cessation of these payments – but that decision was made in September 2021 – two months before the first case of Omicron arrived in Australia.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment enabled Australians to stay safe at home in line with public health laws and took pressure off the balance sheets of small businesses struggling with workforce disruptions.

Almost a year on from the Morrison Government’s original announcement of the timeline to cease the payment, the pandemic continues to affect Australia in new and evolving ways.

Confusing comments by Health Minister Mark Butler today on Insiders are particularly concerning. Mr Butler said Australians should remain cautious amid the surge of Omicron variants and stay at home if they were symptomatic – but in the same breath argued now was the right time to remove the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

Mr Albanese must explain today what advice he has taken and what consultation with business he has done in taking a decision to end these payments.