Aged care providers can offer more hours to international students on their staff to address workforce shortages as part Commonwealth measures to combat the impact of coronavirus.

While supportive of the initiative, the nurses and care workers union has called on the government to additionally commit to recruiting unemployed nursing graduates. 

The measure will allow approximately 20,000 overseas students to work full-time instead of 20 hours per week.

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said international students would help fill critical staff shortages emerging in the sector.

“As more workers take leave to quarantine or because of health concerns, we need to make sure there are enough staff to look after our older Australians who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus,” Mr Tudge said on Wednesday.

“Many international students already work in the aged care sector but are restricted to 40 hours a fortnight. We’re relaxing those limits to help fill the temporary staff shortages.”

The temporary measures will be administered by the Department of Home Affairs and are available to Commonwealth-approved providers for existing employees only.

Employers are still required to abide by all relevant Australian workplace laws.  

Interested providers can register with the home affairs department.

The idea was discussed with aged care stakeholders at the Government’s aged care COVID-19 preparedness forum in Canberra two weeks ago (read more here).

And the aged care provider peak bodies have welcomed the initiative.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Senator Richard Colbeck said these arrangements apply to both the residential and home aged care sectors, he said. 

Richard Colbeck

“Aged care providers have told me that a relaxation of student visa work conditions would support their workforce continuity in the face of COVID-19 challenges.

“These are temporary measures and are solely designed to address staff shortages.

“The Government will continue to work closely with the sector to ensure we have the strongest possible workforce in place as we deal with this extraordinary health challenge,” Mr Colbeck said.

However, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said the government should looks to local out-of-work nursing graduates first.

“Engaging international students should only be part of the solution,” said Lori-Anne Sharp , ANMF acting federal secretary.

“It will be essential that students feel confident and have sufficient training to deal with this pandemic,” she said. 

“With more than 2,500 Australian nursing graduates unemployed, the Government should genuinely give them the first opportunity to be employed, before taking the option of recruiting international nursing students,” she said. 

The home affairs has set up a form for employers to request access to the temporary measure, a spokesperson for Minist Colbeck told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The form “Employer application for Student visa work restriction exemption” will soon be available here.

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9 Comments

  1. I have 30% of my workforce are students is there a form or a criteria that I need to complete before I expand the students hours please?

  2. This is not fair to existing UNDER EMPLOYED casual workers. These staff should be given the option to work full time hours BEFORE employing foreign workers.

    Australian workers must be employed first!

  3. Hi Christine,

    I was told there is a form for providers to fill out. See the link at the bottom of the story. It still isn’t there right now. I will continue to monitor and update.
    Natasha.

  4. Wouldn’t it be great if our recent nursing graduates were actually being given an opportunity to use their skills, instead of being told “we require a minimum of 12months experience.”

    Were never going to get it if we arent given the opportunity.

  5. How is it that the disability sector is excluded with this relaxation for the aged care sector only?
    There are 5 times more Australians being cared for by disability support staff, over 80% overseas students, than the aged care sector.
    As numbers of specialist disability staff take leave for isolation and illness, there will be a huge need to relax the 20 hour rule so that these vacated shifts can be filled and people with disability properly looked after.
    Imagine a person with MS, who in the morning is in bed, hungry, urgently needing toileting and medication; and they are told “Sorry, your shift is cancelled as we have no staff”
    This government needs to think this through again and extend to disability.
    John Roberts, Melbourne

  6. International students are not the answer to quality care and not the answer to fair and equitable employment in either aged care or disability services. Their employment only reinforces the acceptance of the untrained, unskilled into positions of responsibility.

  7. My sister is international student and applying for job in age care.If she get the job is she can work full time as well for now ? Or just for the existing employees?Thank you.

  8. There would be a public outcry if these were children about to be cared for by people with no qualifications , no particular aptitude , and other professional ambitions.
    ‘Anything does ‘ for our aged .
    The general public does not realise till they get there that living in a nursing home isn’t free . It costs most , if not all , of your assets.
    Goodbye home & other assets – hello third world care …..

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