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Fresh union push for paid pandemic leave

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has poured cold water on union calls for paid pandemic leave for all workers who get coronavirus tests or are forced into quarantine.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions wants the Morrison government to fund workers' full pay every time they need to be tested.

Mr Morrison said federal supports including the JobKeeper wage subsidies and the boosted JobSeeker dole payment were already at record levels.

"This is a shared responsibility," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"The Commonwealth is certainly doing overwhelmingly its share of the heavy lifting in providing income support to people all around the country."

The prime minister said Victoria and other states had made temporary payments to cover workers during the pandemic.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the cost of providing paid leave was a drop in the ocean compared to the impact of further lockdowns.

"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," she said.

"The federal government should fund this program, it will be the most cost-effective measure they can take to save our economy."

The Fair Work Commission on Wednesday adjourned an application to extend pandemic leave to all health workers.

The industrial umpire indicated it would revisit the matter if the health situation worsened, noting "disturbing" events of community transmission in Victoria.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said he would look at the commission's ruling.

"The government will consider the commission's decision, noting that it has not dismissed the application and it may be brought back on request or by the FWC's own initiative," he told AAP.

"I note that Victoria is already providing payments for people unable to work due to quarantine or self-isolation requirements."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said existing entitlements like personal and carers' leave covered workers.

He urged caution on calls for universal paid pandemic leave.

"That would be economically crippling," Mr Willox told ABC radio.

Unions are also calling for stronger laws to ban bosses from sacking workers in quarantine.

"People who are quarantining should be supported and acknowledged for saving lives and jobs by making this sacrifice," Ms McManus said.

© AAP 2020