Provider and worker representatives are calling for the government’s aged care retention bonus to be expanded to include laundry, cleaning and catering staff in residential aged care.

The government’s $445 million aged care package announced on 20 March targets specific mechanisms to support the aged care workforce.

It includes $235 million for a COVID-19 retention bonus to assist residential and home aged care providers to keep staff (read more here).

However, in residential aged care it is for care staff only with other frontline and resident-facing roles ineligible.

The aged care provider peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and the Aged Care Guild and worker representative Health Services Union are united in their calls for the bonus to go to all essential facility staff.

The payment of up to $800 per quarter for two quarters “for direct care workers” in aged care facilities does not extend to all resident-facing roles including laundry and hospitality staff, the aged care minister’s office has confirmed.

“Full-time direct care workers in residential care facilities, including personal care workers, registered nurses, enrolled nurses and allied health will receive a ‘retention bonus’ of up to $800 per quarter, paid for two quarters,” a spokesperson for Mr Colbeck told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Full-time home aged care workers doing a broader range of roles are set to receive payments of up to $600 per quarter for two quarters. 

“This includes workers providing clinical care, personal care, cleaning, home support activities and meal preparation, social support, shopping, community access and transport, allied health and respite,” the spokesperson said.

Eligible part-time and casual workers will receive pro rata payments.

ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow said it wasn’t clear why different residential and home aged care roles were eligible.

Patricia Sparrow

“We think the intention of the retention bonus is good but there are some unintended consequences that have come as a result of separate amounts for residential and home care and division between staff who are all working towards the same end,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.

In residential aged care the retention bonus should be extended to other essential and resident-facing workers including cleaning, laundry and catering staff, she said.

“They are doing the same things as other people in terms of putting themselves on the frontline to care for people. It is saying their work is not being valued as much as the others and that is just wrong.”

Ms Sparrow said there needed to be a clearer definition on the meaning of an essential or direct care worker because it was important that residents had clean clothes, bedding and rooms, and food to eat.

HSU national president Gerard Hayes agreed saying anyone who knew the sector understood that every aged care worker played a part in caring and supporting older Australians.

Gerard Hayes

“Right now every aged care worker is on the frontline, playing a critical role in keeping the most vulnerable safe.

“Every aged care worker deserves to be recognised – from the administration workers testing the temperatures of people entering facilities to the cleaners who are working at an incredibly high standard,” My Hayes told AAA.

The sector is already experiencing understaffing and workload pressures as a result of years of underfunding and losing disenfranchised workers could tip things over, he said.

“The message to every aged care worker should be one of thanks and gratitude for the incredible work they are doing. The Federal Government must ensure every aged care worker is paid the retention bonus,” Mr Hayes said.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney is also urging the Government to reconsider its decision to exclude some aged care staff from the retention bonus.

“All staff are essential to the delivery of safe and effective aged care in the context of COVID-19.

“Providing the retention bonus to some staff and not to others has been a source of significant anger and distress among employees,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

Sean Rooney

“Services overseas have reported that retention can be more of a problem for cleaners and food services staff than it is for direct care staff, who are generally better able to understand and manage the risks.”

The retention bonus is an important and welcome contribution but its inequities in eligibility are disappointing, said Nicholas Brown, executive director of operations at the Aged Care Guild.

“All staff working … in an aged care home are putting their own health at risk to ensure senior Australians are cared for during this pandemic.

“Whether they are involved in the direct care of residents or are responsible for cooking or cleaning, all staff play a vital role,” Mr Brown told AAA.

Nicholas Brown

They carry the same risk and responsibility for infection prevention and control and should all receive the same level of support from Government, he said.

“The aged care sector will not be able to successfully respond to the growing COVID-19 crises unless the workforce is appropriately supported and protected.

“I am calling for the entire community to galvanise around this essential workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government can do this by extending the retention bonus to all staff in aged care homes,” Mr Brown said.

Thursday update

AAA is seeking a response from Mr Colbeck about whether the government is considering expanding the bonus to other or all residential aged care staff.

This story was updated on 8 and 9 April.

Comment below to have your say on this story. Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine and sign up to the AAA newsletter

Join the Conversation

41 Comments

  1. Shows how little understanding Government has of aged care – more than most sectors it is very much a team environment where hospitality and admin services provide significant emotional support and social contact particularly in these times.

  2. Administration staff should be included in this also! And what about Activities and Maintenance staff?
    Administration staff are also on the front line, in fact, at the front doors, stopping visitors and potential infections before they enter facilities, yet we are not mentioned in receiving this payment?
    Maintenance staff keep facilities operational. They are also working with and screening essential contractors before allowing them into a facility.
    Activities staff are providing an essential entertainment service for residents who cannot leave the facility.
    I personally would like to see LASA supporting ALL aged care staff, not selectively based on those who are in direct resident care.
    Administration staff are responsible for keeping the facility running, paying the bills, organising important appointments for residents, we have face to face contact with residents, families and other visitors and have the same responsibilities as all other workers to keep Covid-19 out of our facilities.
    Maintenance and Activities staff have equally important roles as well and are also under strict guidelines for keeping residents safe from infection, as well as their social support role.
    Our Prime Minister has stated that “if you have a job, it’s essential” so therefore ALL aged care staff should also be included under this “essential workers” payment.
    I agree with the article title, it is both divisive and unfair.

  3. Thank you to all aged care peak bodies lending their voices to the discrimination of all service staff in aged care. I agree this shows an appalling lack of understanding by the Federal Government of how valuable the hospitality and administration are. We need to work together but actions like this will divide.

  4. I completely agree that the bonus should be expanded to include our Laundry and Cleaning Staff – I am in awe of my co-workers, their duties have increased as highlighted in this article. Where I am we have implemented that all staff uniforms to be washed on premises at end of each shift every day, in a bid to reduce the chance of our uniforms coming in contact with others in the general public. Cleaning Staff – their hours have been extended and cleaning expanded. Totally unfair that they are not considered for this bonus. If we are to espouse Holistic care/ Relationship care then by the Quality Agency and Government’s admission they are all part of providing that care, care is not purely clinical – realise that aside from providing cleaning & laundry services, my co-workers spend time with residents, talking to them, acknowledging them, supporting their emotional needs and especially at such a time it is needed. I am quite upset that they are not considered for the bonus, I would be happy to accept a lower Bonus payment to ensure my co-workers who work in this area receive the same amount.

  5. I agree with the comments of the importance of ALL of my co-workers in residential aged care. Everyone plays an integral part in ensuring our residents feel safe & secure. Leisure & Lifestyle workers are working harder than ever right now to maintain residents are staying connected with family & friends & more time spent individually & for longer periods of time. You cannot identify just a clinical area – there is so much more to a person’s day which involves all of my colleagues as a team. I agree with what Kristy Lee wrote – Our Prime Minister has stated that “if you have a job, it’s essential” so therefore ALL aged care staff should also be included under this “essential workers” payment.

  6. The bonus for those working in facilities and home care should be the same. Not sure why community Care is valued less.
    The same qualification is required so does not make sense

  7. What about the lifestyle staff who work tirelessly to ensure that families can talk to their loved ones, the lifestyle staff that sit and comfort them when they feel they have been abandoned. Why as lifestyle staff are we once again forgotten, it’s not good enough. Who is it that is asked to sit with a resident, try to calm them, distract them, comfort them so that they do not need the chemical medication to calm them down. It’s about time that lifestyle staff were recognised for the work we do as well as behind the scene. Who is it that shops in their own time to ensure that activities go ahead. Start thinking outside the picture and include everyone that works in aged care , we all deserve the payment

  8. I agree with all comments everyone who works in the health industry are all important from lifestyle, cleanser, kitchen staff, laundry staff.
    And we all should be considered for the bonus
    This is a disgrace

  9. All aged care workers are important no matter what your role is. I’m in Lifestyle and I’m spending more and more time with residents for their mental health which is vital. Keeping them in contact with their families and loved ones via FaceTime and phone calls Diversifying to meet the current needs due to social distancing. I believe as a team in aged care all workers are doing the very best we can no matter what department your in. As our PM stated if your going to work your an essential worker. Let’s hope he sticks to his word and hopefully acknowledge ALL workers in aged care

  10. With the new standards we are told that lifestyle officers play a big role in holistic approach towards residents lifestyle.

  11. Not a lot has changed for nursing and care staff as they still administer medications and get the resident ready for their day.
    Leisure & lifestyle staff have had to change everything about their daily routines. Activity planners are out the window, volunteers that were relied on to spend time with residents or help run activities are no longer able to come in so those “jobs” have now been put back onto lifestyles shoulders. We are spending more time with more residents keeping them connected to their loved ones, we have to redesign programs to coincide with social distancing, entertainers have been cancelled so leisure & lifestyle must “fill the gap” with some other form of activity.
    I know I spend more time at my place of work in my own time just to get the other jobs done ready for the next day and it all starts again.
    Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and I’will do what ever it takes to make sure my residents are emotionally supported but please don’t insult myself and my fellow colleagues by not calling us “essential workers” and not including us in the importance of aged care work.

  12. I am a lifestyle coordinator in aged care and its is really disappointing that we are not even acknowledge. My team and I’s work load has tripled with the Coronavirus on an already strained and stressed general environment. Care staff are restricted to sections whereas lifestyle as left more at risk by having to cover the whole facility. We are also in close contact with residents. Lifestyle are considered an essential service

    It would be nice to have the recognition just like all other aged care workers, catering, laundry and cleaning included.

  13. I am very disappointed to hear that we Lifestyle workers who are providing 1:1 mental health support for Agedcare residents and families are not included in this acknowledgment. We are all providing support and working as a team. We lifestyle workers are classified as essential workers so how can we be not as valued as our hard working co workers.

  14. I am GUTTERED, I’ve devoted 35 years of my life to age care, nursing and as a Diversional Therapist. We are an integral part of accreditation, we are with all the residents with one to one contact, for mobility, for emotional support, for behaviour management, for person centered care, for spiritual support an cognitive function. I’ve done a combination of 7 years study to provide the care l bring to 165 residents. Why don’t l meet requirement for Aged Care worker. Why l wonder do we work for such low wages for these abandoned people. Should have kept nursing but l could see that l meet their human needs an a smile to their face, l am there when they are dying ,holding their hand, Are we not at forefront with these aged care people

  15. What a stupid thing to do! Aged care facilities don’t function without food services and laundry services and administration and cleaners and gardeners and RAOs . It is a team effort to put the care into aged care. Pay the whole team.

  16. The lifestyle coordinators are doing triple the amount of work now to make sure residents don’t feel isolated and disconnected from the world too. Why aren’t we included

  17. In my view our whole team are part of the essential services each and everyone of us are putting ourselves at risk to ensure our resident are cared for and looked after. Our cleaners ensure our facilities are cleaned to the highest standards to keep our residents safe. Our Laundry staff make sure each person has clean clothes and clean linen to put on their beds. Our Kitchen staff prepare every meal that each resident has. Our Lifestyle team not only provides activities to our residents but spend 1:1 time with them preventing depression and isolation and low moods not to forget all the phone calls and video calls we provide so that resident can keep in contact with their families. Our Maintenance team ensures everything stays in working order assisting contractors and way more to mention. Then there is our Admin team who goes over and beyond to ensure we have the right amount of staff, bills are paid and that your telephone calls don’t go unanswered. Does our federal government still believe we aren’t all essential workers even though we are the ones going over and beyond for our resident??? Please ensure that each and every person working in a facility gets that retention payment!

  18. I have put some questions to the aged care minister asking whether the govenrment was reconsidering which workers are eligible for the bonus.
    Natasha (AAA editor)

  19. When is this money suppose to come through? Leaving out kitchen and laundry staff is disgraceful.

  20. I am a Lifestyle Assistant at an aged care facility. We have a small team of 3, my Lifestyle Co-ordinator, another Lifestyle assistant and myself. Before Covid19, we were already very busy in a role that few understood, with documentation etc but now as mentioned in some of the above comments, our daily tasks have had to be completely altered and increased. We are dealing with one to one support of our residents to ensure that their emotional wellbeing is attended to in many different ways. I am appalled that the government do not consider us essential. We are indeed thought of as essential by our company, so essential that we work all public holidays including Christmas Day . In fact, my holidays which had been approved were cancelled, but Assistant Nurses are still free to take leave. This is very disappointing indeed. I completely agree with the above comments that all staff at Aged Care Facilities should receive this bonus.

  21. I am an age care worker who cannot believe how little the government thinks of the domestic staff working in nursing homes..by saying we do not receive any retention bonus just makes us feel unvalued..very disheartening..unemployed will receive 550$ Coronavirus payment on top of their regular payment for six months..this is after the 750$ bonus..I’m not talking about people that have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 but all unemployed..!! They can stay home stay safe and will receive maybe 200$ less a fortnight than what I earn going to work in a nursing home five days a week ..and I hear that the government dismisses what myself as a domestic does .can’t really find the words to say how low this makes us ( because I’m including all domestic age care workers ) feel.. are we not worth anything..!!!!

  22. I have worked in aged care for 15years and at no time have i considered my position in hotel services kitchen to be any less important than that of the ain, en, pcw, admin, laundry etc. We all work as a United team to care and provide high quality meals for all our residents. So to dismiss us as virtually non essential and not worth this bonus is an absolute insult to all the hard working staff i work with. Its ok to care for our residents but they also need food…and clean clothes to maintain a healthy life. Its for everyone we all go to work and do our best for the residents. My opinion thanx

  23. This is a joke, the government is giving 550 to people on parenting payment who are working and receiving more more than the cleaner, catering staff, lifestyle workers, laundry staff and those junkies who just sit and do nothing but wait on government payment but can’t pay these people for the jobs that they are doing. This is a disgrace to Morrison government because they don’t know who needs the money the most

  24. We were all made to do corona virus course with the govt because we are essential workers but yet we are not important enough to receive a payment for our work in the kitchen laundry cleaning and maintenance, but yet if we were on centrelink with no job we would receive one, how is that fair ? I say we should strike nationwide see how essential we are then.

  25. I am an admin person and I have daily contact with families, residents and everyone other person who walks through the front door. We are not on full lock down and still have twice daily visiting hours where I can sometimes be exposed to up to 70+ plus relatives a day who turn up to visit their family member. I haven’t been given the option to stay at home, I still come to work every single day and are put at risk 5 days a week. I think disgusting that admin, lifestyle, laundry, kitchen and cleaning staff are not included. Send us all home and watch the homes fall apart. What a total slap in the face. The government have shown time and time again they have no idea what goes on in an aged care home and they don’t care.

  26. Totally disgusted with our government how dare they think hotel services in aged care is less valuable than care staff we are all a team and work as such to bring the best possible care to our elderly without the laundry, kitchen, cleaning our aged care homes could not function.

  27. I think all workers fulltime permanant parttime,casual workers should all receive the same amount as permanant parttime and casuals work more hours then fulltime as they can cover extra shifts all the time .i also think kitchen staff ,laundry staff,and cleaners should receive a bonus payment they may not be hands on with actual contact with residents as care staff but are there everyday doing there part keeping the services going and without them certain areas would not run like clock work .also lifestyle workers have there part as Well we’re I work they do get public holidays of and if they have put in for leave they get it and they don’t work on xmas ,new year ,Easter,or other public holidays but in the end we all go to work and look after the elderly and sick while the families have other committments we put a smile on there faces give them a hug when they are down and treat them as if they were our own family so yes the government needs to review this payment so we all know we are essential and worth our weight in gold.

  28. Im currently working in an aged care facility which has a good name. It takes all of our staff to care for these elderly people DEFINITELY HOSPITALITY LAUNDRY AND ADMIN AND MAINTAINCE its unfare for carers only to get the payment we all care for these people and we actually look after their needs more so than some carers who at times are too busy all they do is dress shower and toilet them then move on to the next one and dont talk to them much atall

  29. What a disgrace. Every single one of us working in aged care are equally responsible for the care of residents. Even kitchen staff come into contact with our dear residents daily. We chat to them, serve them their meals ….and sometimes help them with crosswords 😁 …..and were non essential workers????

  30. I personally believe that the above package distribution is unfair. I work in an Aged Care facility as the Admin where I do not have the flexibility to work from home. I make sure that all calls are picked on timely manner. I make sure that there are enough supplies to run the facility by placing weekly orders. I interact with the resident in the best manner so I want to question the Government that why there is a need of making a discrimination between the care staff and admin? Just because I am not helping resident with showering,toileting or feeding does not put me in a different category? When Centrelink is ready to pay to every job seekers even if they are not working for more than 2 years and if I compare the situation with the staff who are still going to work daily like me so why there is a need of discrimination?

  31. Why is a resident facility is rated higher over field workers who are at a greater risk?
    Facilities closed visiting but field workers have no control who comes n goes into homes that field workers visit. It should be a one payment for all.

  32. We work as a team in aged care supporting each other. We all interact and care for our residents as we go about our work day. WE ALL PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE…In their holistic care. Recognition for all staff……

  33. All staff in these environments are essential workers! These homes and hospitals cannot function without catering, cleaners and admin staff! This is an insult! I hope you are resolving!

  34. I totally agree with ALL of the above comments!!! Its so so unfair and irresponsible of Morrison, wr work hard in the aged care sector, it is go go go each & everyday. Now its dbl that… I love what i do, feel very blessed helping those in need, its so very rewarding. Our residents are VERY thankful and grateful and often comment on how hard we ALL work, as it is noticeable. Yr pressed to stop for a cuppa as it will put you behind. Terrible, these lovely residents pay alit of money to stay where theor looked after and cared for, they deserve time and respect. RESPECT they receive, time not so much as not enough staff. Some hve no family so want just a chat and cuppa with us, no chance of that, you chat while showering to their needs but no time for a cuppa together. Definately not looking forward to aging, actually dreading it (& i’m only 51). WE DESERVE A LITTLE THKS AS A BONUS, THE CASUAL WOKERS THAT WORKED A 5 HR SHIFT, NIW RECEIVE $1,600 A FORTNIGHT. We work our butt of for same, actually not quite that amount, $1,545. CRAZY !!! Really confused and not happy Morrison.
    PAULA

  35. Ohhh i must add …. i work permanant part time over 60 hrs a fortnight. Isn’t that classed as fulltime hrs. Without sounding selfish we would all like $1,600 just given to us whilst staying at hme … Paula (cont from above comment)

  36. We all work as a team in aged care. Since Covid19 all staff have a heavier workload. What would aged care look like if we didn’t have cleaners..kitchen..laundry..lifestyle and Administrative staff to keep the facilities operating safely. We are all just as direct care as RN’S..EN’S AND PC’S. We deserve this bonus as much as care staff. We are all Health Care Workers !!

  37. I work in aged care as a Cleaner this bonus broke my heart because when I walk into work I feel like I’m part of team I feel like The cares,nurses, kitchen Staff, Admin , activities, Maintenance, Cleaners where all one big Team all Working together to provide the best life for our beautiful residents and keep them safe this bonus has separated us all .With visitors now allowed back into aged care facilities cleaners have to work extra around the clock shifts to ensure the rooms are cleaned properly after visitors have left
    we put on our PPE and go into sick residents rooms running the risk of becoming ill ourselves or taking it home to our loved ones I feel like this Bonus has set a sad statement it’s saying that we don’t matter which is so sad when where there every day disinfecting and sanitizing every surface to protect your loved one from becoming ill

  38. I think that every person working in hospitals or any aged care facility should be paid the same retention bonus as we all work as a team and are responsible for the well being and health of our patients or residents. This is classed as team work.

  39. Its me again a hospitality worker for a very large company .Has any member of parliament listened to us ! Shall we all go on strike and protest what will happen then the aged care facilities will fall apart
    Listen to us the aged care minister

  40. Im a cleaner in residential aged care
    The government has just made me feel like a nothing
    During this out break I have pulled in 10 hour shift 5 days a week
    Our job roles have increased
    Its taking its tole on my body and made me feel like a nothing Us cleaners are working just as hard as carers and we too are putting are lives at risk

  41. This bonus should be for all care workers EG laundry and kitchen staff cleaning staff to segregate staff over this payment is appalling. Anyone who is responsible for the care and well be of our most loved ones should be compensated. People on the dole staying at home are earning more money than more care staff in aged care facilities what a joke

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.