Aged care wages: tackling pay in ‘the forgotten industry’

The longstanding issue of low wages for care workers and nurses in residential aged care is back in focus as a Senate committee investigates the sector’s workforce. But is anything likely to change?

Care workers and nurses in aged care are speaking out about low wages

The longstanding issue of low wages for care workers and nurses in residential aged care is back in focus as a Senate committee investigates the sector’s workforce. But is anything likely to change? 

“We are some of the lowest-paid workers in Australia,” says Brenda Oganyo, a personal care worker of 10 years.

“Most of us earn around $20 an hour and yet we are responsible for the day-to-day care of the older generation.”

Many care workers are permanent part-time or casual, so they find it difficult to get loans while their superannuation is almost non-existent, Oganyo says.

“I have been in this industry for 10 years and our wages have not changed much.”

Oganyo is one of several personal care workers and nurses working in aged care who have appeared before the current Senate inquiry into the aged care workforce as it holds public hearings around the country.

The issue of pay in the sector has become a recurring theme at the hearings and looks set to feature strongly in the inquiry’s final report.

Under the current aged care award, minimum weekly pay for personal care workers starts at $715 (level 1) and increases to $868 (level 7).

Put another way, many are earning around half the average full-time adult weekly wage in Australia, which the ABS puts at $1,516.

For assistants in nursing, enrolled nurses and registered nurses, minimum wage rates are similarly low.

  • A first-year AIN in aged care earns $734 a week minimum compared to a first-year AIN in a NSW public hospital on $820 a week.
  • An EN in aged care starts on $797 a week minimum while an EN in a NSW public hospital earns $1,029 a week.
  • An RN in aged care starts on $853 a week minimum compared to an RN in a NSW public hospital who earns $1,142 a week.

It’s important to note these are minimum rates of pay as set out by the Fair Work Ombudsman, and many aged care providers pay above them.

But this only underscores the point that pay is a central factor in the sector’s long-standing recruitment and retention woes; the providers that pay above award rates are often the same organisations that report fewer issues with attracting and keeping staff.

As Joanne Christie, chief of people and culture at The Bethanie Group, a major provider in Western Australia, told the Senate inquiry:

“We pay exceptionally well in the industry. We are one of the top-five payers for WA, and we would pay about $23.50 an hour. We are finding it OK to attract people at that rate at the moment.”

Money matters, especially when aged care facilities are competing with others in the health system, as Southern Cross Care’s Pearl facility told the inquiry’s Darwin hearing.

“Twice a year the hospital here recruits a large number of personal care workers and we have a mass exodus at that time,” said Sylvia Treacy, residential services manager.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said his union compared pay rates and found those manning checkouts for Woolworths got paid more than AINs.

“Like it or not, wages matter. Being able to put food on the table and a roof over your head really does matter when you are choosing [jobs],” Holmes told the inquiry.

The value of work

Many aged care workers feel they are under-appreciated and the low rates of pay simply reflect the value that society places on their work.

Therese Jefferson

In fact, many resent the lack of recognition that is signalled by the low pay, says Therese Jefferson, a Professor in Curtin University’s Graduate School of Business.

Jefferson was part of a research team that surveyed 4,000 women working in aged care and found the low pay and perceived worth of the work had an adverse effect on their motivation to stay in the sector.

“The low pay did two things; firstly it makes it harder to survive if you’re trying to live on a low wage, but secondly we found that even the workers who could afford to stay working in aged care, often because they had a partner who was better paid, really resented the lack of recognition that was indicated by that low pay,” Jeffersen tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

“There was a feeling that the community doesn’t care about the work they’re doing even though it’s really important, and that had an adverse effect on people’s motivations to stay in the sector,” she says.

Inadequate super another blow

Which leads to the other structural issue facing aged care workers and nurses: a career earning low wages, often on a part-time or casual basis and with periods out of the workforce to raise children, means many are looking at disturbingly low superannuation balances.

Mary Delahunty

Mary Delahunty, general manager business development and policy at HESTA, the superannuation fund covering many of the sector’s care workers and nurses, says the typical fund member is 43 years old and has around $18,000 in her superannuation account.

“At the moment women are retiring with around 44 per cent less super than men – across all sectors, not just health and community services,” Delahunty tells AAA.

“Health and community services will see a bigger gap between women and men because they have a bigger pay equity gap. On average we’re seeing a $142,000 gap in retirement savings in the sector as a whole,” she says.

HESTA has been advocating on the gender pay gap and the low retirement savings for sector workers, and while Delahunty welcomes the increased recognition of the issue in recent years she’s concerned about the apparent lack of will among policymakers and government to tackle it.

Action on funding needed: providers

At the Senate inquiry’s hearings, aged care providers have been laying the blame for the sector’s low wages with the Commonwealth, which sets the level of funding providers receive.

Catholic Health Australia noted that 70 per cent of providers’ revenue comes from the taxpayer and the Commonwealth caps the level of funding it provides for individuals.

Aged and Community Services Australia tells AAA that both the ongoing reforms to aged care and the work underway on a new funding model for residential aged care should take into account the wages of care workers and nurses.

ACSA and fellow provider peaks have developed an Aged Care Strategy Framework to progress the workforce domain of the Aged Care Sector Committee’s Aged Care Roadmap, which details the sector’s position on necessary reforms in aged care.

Leading Age Services Australia also points to the framework, saying provider peaks have written to the government recommending workers and consumers also be engaged in the strategy’s development.

Read the full in-depth report on wages in the current issue of AAA magazine (Jan-Feb)

Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine 

Want to have your say on this story? Comment below

Tags: aged care workforce compact, curtin-university, hesta, Joanne Christie, mary delahunty, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, slider, southern-cross-care, Sylvia Treacy, The Bethanie Group, therese jefferson, wages, workforce,

30 thoughts on “Aged care wages: tackling pay in ‘the forgotten industry’

  1. Hoorah , gets my vote. Fair share for aged care. Over worked, underpaid and rarely thanked.

    Pay parity one of the true values needed in aged care

  2. I’m sure the Senate inquiry will confirm we’re on the right track.

    Why waste precious funds on carers’ wages when there’s a desperate need for more platforms for providers to cry poor, brow-furrowing investigations into the bleeding obvious and incisive research that reveals ‘it’s harder to survive if you’re trying to live on a low wage’.

    Besides, those irresponsible aged care workers would just fritter away the extra money on groceries, rent and electricity bills.

    By the way…if 70% of your revenue comes from the taxpayer, shouldn’t the taxpayer expect 70% of your profits in return?

  3. Just some thoughts on the value of work: Igot a little bit excited when I read about the Senate committee looking into the aged care workforce. The evidence is clear and beyond doubt, aged care nurses are underpaid and the industry is already subject to large staff turnover. This is at a time when residents and organisations really need stability and well trained nurses who also have valuable experience to provide caring and professional nursing practice. So why is this industry so different from all the others in regards to renumeration for effort and responsibility? Those other industries seem to be able to measure effort and responsibility more accurately and with a better renumeration outcome than what has been happening in aged care nursing for many decades. Unless the good people of this senate enquiry do something different than what has happened in previous investigations, they will have the same outcome. The facts are clear ….. now the ball in in their court and I await to see what actions they will take.

  4. An 18 year old at a supermarket gets more per hour than Aged Care Workers, We are responsible for ensuring aged loved ones are safe and secure and are able to participate as fully as possible in their lives. We provide a service that ensures the recipient is able to live their lives free from worries about their day to day activities.
    My wage is $21 per hour, it is hard physical work. We are on our feet for an entire shift, in a seven hour shift we get one 10 minute paid tea break and a 30 minute unpaid meal break.
    We are expected to put up with physical aggression directed towards us and other residents, a distinct lack of manners from a number of residents, and being made to feel as if we are servants rather than what we are which is providing the care needed for the recipient to maintain a level of independence and safety, We provide the care that they need to maintain their independence, we do not intend or try to stop anyone from doing all they are physically and mentally able to do. This helps to extend life and give them a quality of life that would be missing if they had to do all the house keeping/work needed to maintain their lives.

  5. To quote Joanne Christie/Bethanie Group… “we pay exceptional well in the industry”… she quotes a carers rate but what they have to do for that pittance is to oversee a lot of duties the nurses would do, such as give out medications, simple wound care, gastric feeds etc.
    Most don’t actually want the responsibility!
    In turn the providers employ fewer nurses who are actually paid poorly compared to nurses in the public system.
    If the Senate truly wants to be informed, ask the carers and nurses themselves and NOT management. Often management will recommend someone who is a YES person which does NOT reveal the true picture of what is happening in the industry.

  6. I agree with all of the above .. I am also an In charge which has now been changed to Team leader as we now have RN s . I get $1 dollar a hour more than everybody else . I take all the stress and still have to do the duties with the RN . I’m 61 and I can still run rings around the young ones but my body is feeling it . I have nothing in my super to retire …

  7. I think they need to come and work with us and see how underpaid we are, caring for people who have incontinence and living with dementia, often hitting, punching and spitting. You go home with bruises and bad backs because you have to shower up to eight residents, most of them immobile. You’re paid $21 an hour payed fortnightly and you can only work the shifts you’re given so sometime you have plenty of work, and other times you don’t have enough to pay the rent. You can’t complain because they only offer small hour contracts so they can do what they want. Someone needs to help us.

  8. in our work place the contract cleaners get paid more then Aged care workers and they don’t clean anything with body fluids on it. care staff get to mob floors daily, clean residents rooms if personal items are on tables etc, i get $21 per hour, when responsible for assisting with medications it $23. We are on our feet for an entire shift, in a eight hour shift we get one 10 minute paid tea break and a 30 minute unpaid meal break.
    we have the added pressure of deciding if a resident needs a Doctors appointment or needs to be transferred to hospital. we have six care staff on shift with one RN for a 63 bed facility mornings with only I rated as low care resident, evenings five staff including RN. nights two care staff trying to increase that to three when staff is available.

    We are expected to put up with physical aggression directed towards us and other residents, a distinct lack of manners from a number of residents, and being made to feel as if we are servants rather than what we are which is providing the care needed for the recipient to maintain a level of independence and safety, We provide the care that they need to maintain their independence, we do not intend or try to stop anyone from doing all they are physically and mentally able to do. This helps to extend life and give them a quality of life that would be missing if they had to do all the house keeping/work needed to maintain their lives.

  9. Just a little excerpt out of the Charter of Care Recipients Rights and Responsibilities:

    “to live without discrimination or victimisation, and without being obliged to feel grateful to those providing his or her care and accommodation;

    to personal privacy;

    to live in a safe, secure and homelike environment, and to move freely both within and outside the residential care service without undue restriction;”

    Aged care is a poorly paid industry as a whole, but this does not mean that our customers deserve any less as a result of our wages.

    If you would like to see an improvement to wages in the industry, how about looking at the amount of funding received by way of ACFI for managing the complex care needs of our clients.

    ACFI funds wages as well as certain items required under specified care and services.

    Further, a recent article quoted that “Hotel services have increased cumulatively by 46 per cent since 2007 as compared to CPI (22.6 per cent) and COPO/COPE (19.8 per cent). Utility costs have increased by 97 per cent since 2007 and administration costs by 74 per cent. The fundamental issue is: how are the providers expected to make up this difference in such a regulated revenue regime”

    I think that many (including direct care staff) have no idea of how the financial situation in aged care is so controlled by Government.

    There are no buckets of money!

  10. I am the one who cleans and redresses your parent after they vomit. I am the one that often has to remove their dentures and clean them then help them reinsert them. I am the one that sits with your parent to assist them during mealtimes and with drinks. I am the one who cleans them, and frequently redresses them when they have been incontinent. I am the one who showers and assists them to dress daily and in the evening assist them to change clothes and put them to bed.

    I am often the one who takes whom clothing to be repaired as family do not visit. I am also the one that often will do personal shopping in my own time for clothing items and other personal items that family ‘conveniently’ forget, never intend to buy or there is no family.

    I am the one that listens to your parents concerns, worries & fears and I am the one that listens to them voicing concerns over there immediate families health concerns or family dynamics.

    I am the one who listens and consoles your parents when they weep from loss, grief or fear.

    Yet I am the one, who is often verbally abused, at times physically abused or injured in some way when providing this care. And more frequently now, the abuse is from family members.

    Why do you think it is acceptable to be verbally abuse me on behalf of your parent in a manner that you would not tolerate nor find acceptable if your child was bullied and abused in this manner at their place of employment?

    I am a carer and my role is as important and as valuable as any other role entrusted with the care of a family member – be it child or adult. Yet my wages do not reflect this.

    I, like the majority of parents would have liked to have been able to offer my own children every opportunity available to them. Unfortunately being a single parent on a very low wage and also having worked in this industry for many man years, due to my age, this is now impossible.

    Aged care workers deserve a wage that is reflective of the valuable necessary work they perform.

    I have grave concerns & fears for the future of this industry in Australia.

    With Government cutbacks and changes in community as well as residential and providers now ‘focusing on alternative means of attracting business’ I imagine we will be seeing more frequent stories in the media of elder abuse in aged care, unsafe multi tasking practices, fewer RN’s on site etc, whilst existing staff will be given more & more daily tasks to fill the gaps of delivery.

    I have been advocating for resident ratio and wage increases for over 30 yrs now.

    I see this as the future for aged care in Australia – an industry that will implode as it cannot cope with the current situation and will be unable to cope with the expected future generation of those in residential facilities and their demands ‘ as retaining staff will be one of the major issues.

    That old saying ‘pay peanuts and you will get …………..’

  11. Nothing will be done. No one wants to know the hard work PCAs put in the care. No one cares about poor staff ratios, no one cares about our wages. Remember, it’s profit before care. Accreditation only care about ticking boxes and giving 44/44 for effort on the 2 days they have an announced visit. The industry psychs you up for this –
    get in maximum staff, professional cleaners, loads of lifestyle activities. It’s a total scam.

  12. My mothers aged care service provider charges her $46.00 per hour for their home care staff. Even though she receives a good package from the govt and contributes hervpension it is not adequate to cover her needs at home because of these high hourly charges.

  13. I bet the home care staff actually doing the care would only get a fraction of the $46 an hour charged.

  14. aged care is a thankless job with no future little to know acknowledgement or fair maintained regulations, a 2.5% pay was offered to employees in a well known christian facility in NSW central coast this facility is the lowest paid facility in the entire central coast. AINs are treated with less respect then cleaners and over worked residents have extreme and aggressive excessive behaviors management have no concern for safety. aged care is in a state of disrepair facilities have turned into sweat shops over worked and grossly underpaid with little thanks.

  15. I would like to to see aged care workers who puts all their efforts to nursing home residents leaving their own personal life behind will get better wages and conditions. Ains work and control better the nursing home ,Ains work as psychologist to listen and advice ,comfort the residents as their families leave all worries behind. Ains sit and hold residents hands before they die Ains attend personal care ensure that the residents are safe and sound .Ains are one of the most important people in residents lives.

  16. As a carer of nearly ten years i’m sick of seeing big companies slashing caring hours. How we are supposed to the job with less hours that we already struggle to do is beyond me. Care staff are going out on stress leave and on workers comp due to the incredibly heavy work load. A pay rise would be lovely but it jut isn’t going to happen, not until some politicians family member is effected only then will we see a possible change. If only they knew what we do in a single shift they would be shocked!! Its not all smiles and making cups of tea and holding their hands, we are abused both verbally and mentally abused and not by the ones with dementia!! We are the ones who make the difference to the small worlds some families just “dump and run” their so called love ones, these people look to us for comfort and company. Recognition is what all carers are looking for and a decent pay at the end of the fortnight would go a long way….Don’t get me wrong I love my job but it’s getting harder when you have barely seen a change you pay rate in nearly ten years..

  17. I blame the govt for the lack of care for our oldies how does a 20yr old boy get 50 dollars an hr working on a road compared to us on 23 an hr part time work sucks as there is never enough work.people wonder why the oldies in homes arent looked after properly. value ur staff and more wages is a start.nursing homes are the most toxic workplaces i’ve ever worked in.i suffer ptsd from being stood down and bullied out of a job w poor union support poor oldies all i can say managers of these places have a lot to answer to

  18. The companies are ruthless and only interested in making a profit. The management get more in their bonus if they don’t replace staff who are sick. Care staff are blamed for anything that goes wrong in the facility. No thanks is given. We are there for our residents as the pay does not equal the work.

    Tired and broken.

  19. The wages of people at the bottom rung of any organisation, for-profit or not-for-profit, is low and disrespectful both to the person and their care responsibilities. However, this is a broader societal issue as most carers are women and the care sector is typically a feminised workplace.

    An example of the challenges in the care sector is recognition of basic quals like Cert 3/4 but highly disrespectful to some (or most) people who are older and seek to qualify at university or TAFE. Organisations don’t really care about people’s quals but want skills to be applied in a now marketised care environment. A CDC and person-centred enviro in the care sector needs to look at all players, workers and clients to skill and educate.

    Incidentally the criticism that a worker gets only a small portion of the charge of $46 or $50 or whatever to a client’s package, is not necessarily true. The cost of care to a package is it itself low and is expected to cover administration, workers’, training, back office operations, skilled case managers, transport, quality control, rent, pool cars, insurances, innovation, technology investment, etc. Let’s learn to think beyond profits and wages. There is a whole lot of support behind the older person, visible or not.

  20. Great irony that a workload increase is supported by your poll.

    Do you support personal care workers and assistants in nursing being required to enter any variation in a resident’s condition in the progress notes, as recommended by a Queensland coroner?

  21. I have worked in aged care facilities as a carer for approximately 24 years now. Yes you are underpaid for what you’re worth, it’s hard work but you do it out of respect for the aged because you have compassion and you care about them. As for the facilities caring about you that’s another story yes we are grossly underpaid for what we do, we are never appreciated in any way shape or form, anything that goes wrong within a facility, at the bottom the carers get the blame. Aged care facilities are rife with bullying and harassment from other workers. It seems to be out of control in most facilities, with management turning a blind eye to it because in reality, the bullying starts at the top and continues through. Unfortunately the bullies get away with everything and are rewarded for their acts of bad behaviour with further education to improve their job status whilst the bullied are often condemned and run out of the workplace.

    Over the 24 years I have moved from workplace to workplace to try and avoid this bullying childlike behaviour, believe you me it’s in nearly every single aged care facility which is very unfortunate for these beautiful aging residents. They no sooner build trust and rapport with the compassionate caring workers only to find that they have left the establishment and never know what the reason is for them leaving. This must be so traumatic for these beautiful elderly people to have to go through. The last aged care facility I worked at I was backed into a corner so to speak by bullying activities of other staff members and management, yes I got the union involved and truly it didn’t do me any good. I ended up having to leave the job that I loved and worked hard for all my life caring for the elderly. Yes and I had a breakdown due to all the bullying and harassment that I had I had endured over the years. I was determined not to go back into aged care after what had happened to me.

    Finally, I have made my decision to go back to aged care because that was my passion and why should I let anybody turn me away from what I love doing. However, it took me 8 months to get back into the workforce even though I was very experienced I was being turned down by every facility I approach.

    I have made a few changes, now I am working as a Community Worker with disability/aged within their own homes. The pay is better the conditions are better and the managers are by far better people to work with. The clients are happier and content with the care they are receiving. I am loving my new career as a community worker.

    The Government needs to look closely at the bad situations here of wages and bullying. We need better working conditions that will reflect more positively on our aging population all round.

  22. the underpay is the only one side of the medal. In current situation when government is cutting significantly residential aged care funding, the raise of minimum wage might force the most dedicated and caring staff to leave the industry. The aged care providers will cut staffing and increase already hardly bearable workload. Why does gavernment health care have nurse patient lagislative ratios but it is not the case with aged care? They can force providers to increase wages but in the same time the law must protect workers and residents from outrage and superexploitation of aged care service providers. The increase of nurses wage must go hand in hand with legislative nurse to residents ratios in aged care, this two issues should not be separated. On what kind of care we can discuss when in average nursing home one RN for 40 residents and one AIN for 8-10 high dependent residents.

  23. Soso sad for the elderly and women employed for these esablishments. (Over 90% are women) This country is going backwards when women’s wages and conditions are akin to The Potato Factory in Ireland! The put up and shut up menality of men overruling in female dominated jobs. Yep they are all getting that bonus for saving money. If I was single I could not live on what I get paid. Would have to have 3 parttime jobs to live!!

  24. I’ve ben in aged care since 2003 and working conditions have not improved over those years. It is an industry that relies heavily on foreigners to work as carers and who, because of their personal circumstances and immigration status, are often unwilling to stand up against the abuse and neglect that this industry inflicts on them and, thus, the people they care for. The Health Services Union has done absolutely nothing to draw public attention to this very forgotten industry. Care workers are not just there to provide person centered care to their elderly clients. They also support their managers, the registered nurses, cleaners, kitchen and laundry staff and they support the family members who come to visit their ageing relatives. Care workers shoulder enormous responsibilities withe each shift that they work and they do this for very low pay. Care workers support everyone involved in this industry and nobody supports them. Care workers’ concerns are usually met with the same responses from management and even the Department of Health and Ageing – “insufficient funding”, ” not enough staff” etc. Carer burn out is a reality and many people who apply to work in this industry don’t stay after working one or two shifts on the floor – and who would blame them? Ageing in Place has put enormous pressure on care staff in facilities that are not designed for high care clients and, unlike hospitals, there are no care staff to client ratios. The government is not interested in changing this situation – they don’t want to spend more money on aged care. Government initiatives to improve care outcomes for our elderly is predominantly an exercise in creating more paperwork and it never provides practical, realistic solutions for those who are providing actual care in real time. Care workers are simply expected to take on board ever increasing levels of responsibility and duties without the right to appropriate and commensurate remuneration or fair and reasonable working conditions. They really are treated appallingly. Recently child care workers went on strike for better wages and working conditions. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the aged care sector needs to have happen as well for things to improve.

  25. My partner just started with a new employer in Tamworth doing odd shifts started at 7pm till 945pm on normal rate ,,, then no break ?? Just restart new shift in the same house at 945pm till 645am ,,,,, and got payed $45 from 945pm till 645am ??? I am wondering if her employer is cheating the system ??? Who can we speak to ???

  26. Hi Trevor I am about to work on a policy submission for University and I am interested in the low pay of aged care workers. I have been a Personal Carer for around 10 years and I am shocked that the rate of pay between the hours of 9.45 and 6.45 is around $60. I would be very interested in finding out if anyone knows more information on this.

  27. I’m a male aged care worker and have been doing it for over 2 years now. I came from mining and was made redundant, my wife worked age care and suggested I do my cert 3. I love my job looking after and caring for the aged but yes so sad the pay we get and the pressure put on these lovely people working in the industry. I work with dementia, love the residents so much but at times their moods can change, the staff are not really trained properly for this and often get hurt. If I was a teacher or a normal worker there would be outrage over the treatment we have to put up with. On top of that the facility is cutting down hours and staffing. The pressure on you is just overwhelming, no wonder staffing has such a high turnover. People think you just get to sit and talk with old people, most of the time we are cleaning, serving meals, doing dishes, mopping floors, making beds, putting away cloths, giving medication, all this and much more. But we love our residents and do it every day for them, as if we did not who would?

  28. To add to what the above post states – not only do aged care workers serve meals, clean, do dishes, mop floors, make beds and other general housekeeping tasks. We do so much more. In many facilities care workers administer medications and are responsible for many other aspects of medication management. We take temperatures, do blood pressures, measure oxygen saturations, fluid balance and food balance charts and record this information. We are constantly observing our clients for physical, emotional and psychological changes, document and pass this information on to the nursing staff. We perform skin integrity assessments, mobility assessments and are constantly on the look-out for other changes in our clients on every shift to ensure that they are getting the best care possible. As care workers we provide psychological and social support to our clients; we are the ones they see every day. We provide assistance with personal hygiene, oral hygiene, toileting, perineal hygiene. We dress and undress them, check that wound dressings are intact and clean, put on and remove incontinence pads, compression garments and prosthetics. We deal with all types of clients, from independent and mobile to those with advanced stages of dementia. We provide full care to clients who are bedridden and totally unable to do anything for themselves. We use lifters and other equipment that we have to push along long corridors and negotiate into rooms and bathrooms that are often too small and were not designed for high care clients. For many of our clients we have to do regular whereabouts checks, answer call bells and try to keep them safe from falls and self-injury.

    As aged care workers we (try to) provide person centered care to our clients, but we also support our managers, the nursing staff, the cleaners, kitchen staff, visitors and the family members of our clients. Aged care work is work that requires a very high level of skill, is extremely challenging, physically and emotionally demanding. However, aged care workers are classified, paid and treated as unskilled labor. Our job titles and descriptions are intentionally vague so that employers can include any tasks they choose into our job descriptions in addition to our primary responsibility to provide person centered care to our many clients. In many facilities one aged care worker will work alone in caring for as many as 15 or more individuals with varying care needs, from independent to fully dependent. At shift end we also required to do as much as an extra hour’s worth of data entry and progress note writing, which we often have to do in our own, unpaid time, because we are simply too busy on the floor and our employers will not provide the resources needed for us to finish on time.

    When people move into aged care they often come with diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions, which can include behavioural and mental health problems. Our clients represent the general community and their life experiences, that shape them as individuals, are as numerous and individual as the people we care for. In the health care sector, nursing staff are specifically trained, resourced and supported to be able to provide the best possible care to individuals with such special needs. In aged care we are expected to simply deal with it and if anything goes wrong we, the care workers, are held solely responsible and we are treated accordingly by our industry.

    Aged care workers have no support other than what the industry deems appropriate and serves its self-interests. The HSU (Health Services Union), is an utterly ineffective organization when it comes to representing aged care workers. They may represent individuals in dispute situations with their employer. However, the HSU also represents aged management and, thus, their effectiveness is compromised in advocating on behalf of aged care workers as a collective and to raise public awareness regarding the poor working conditions that this industry foists on its most important employees. Most other industry sectors in this country have far better and effective union representation. Perhaps it is time that aged care workers get a union that only focuses on and advocates for them, because what exists now doesn’t work. Not for aged care workers nor the clients they care for.

  29. If it has been forecast that there will be a demand for more aged care workers, why isn’t the demand reflected in the pay. It is not only aged care workers. Every time I hear “there is a shortage of workers in the x,y,z professions” it is never reflected in the pay.

    But then, if aged care workers were paid what they deserved, would we as a society be prepared to contribute more via taxes and/or fees for the pay the aged care workers deserve?

    Aged care workers have a very responsible job looking after the most physically vulnerable.

    Anthony of Belfield

  30. I am a consumer (ghastly word) of aged care and believe the providers are treating ‘support workers’ so badly in many ways, and can’t understand why HSU allows Providers to get away with it! The Carers are paid $22 and I pay Provider $51 per hour in addition to administration fees etc. etc. I asked provider why they get $29 and staff only $22 per hour? Without these girls who work so hard for a pittance, the Administration staff would not have their better paid jobs. The provider has a business to run I realise, but they never explain what percentage they make from Govt. subsidy plus my payment, whether they are non profit company. Why can’t they increase Carers pay to minimum of $25 per hour as Provider would still receive $26 per hour? HSU what are you doing to help your members get a fair go??

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