Skills development, a desire to try something new and pay are the top three drivers for aged care workers wanting to leave their employer, the findings of a new report shows.

The findings are in report released on Monday by industry superfund HESTA informed by online surveys with members pre-COVID in May 2019 and during the pandemic in July 2020 about their workplace experiences, job intentions and industry outlook.

The State of the Sector Aged Care Workforce Insights: COVID and Beyond report is based on the responses of 1,568 members working in the aged care sector as well as other insights including from discussions with representatives of industry peak bodies, employers and unions.

Aged care professionals in 2020 cited a lack of skills development, wanting to try something new and pay as their top reasons for choosing to leave the employer, the research found.

These findings provide insights on how the sector can retain members of the aged care workforce, said HESTA CEO Debby Blakey, who will present the findings at the ACSA National Online Summit on Monday.

Debby Blakey

“The fact that people would consider leaving to try something new is an issue that we could address by enhancing people’s experience of diversity in the work that they’re doing every day,” Ms Blakey told Australian Ageing Agenda ahead of the conference.

“[We] obviously do need to deal with issues of pay and conditions, but I think also [we need to] address the issue of skills development and making sure that there are broad opportunities for development of new skills and enhanced skills, and also that there’s enough variety in people’s work,” Ms Blakey said.

The estimated median salary for HESTA members in aged care is $47,127 before and 39.3 per cent of aged care members are estimated to earn less than $50,000 a year before tax, the report shows.

Sense of pride rising

The research found that between 32 per cent and 38 per cent of aged care respondents are unlikely to recommend their employers, leaders or a career in the sector, while a third of respondents report they do not feel valued or appreciated by their employer and the community.

However, the average pride score of aged care staff jumped to 8.4 out of 10 in 2020 from 7.8 in 2019.

While most aged care professionals returned similar average pride scores, nurses had a significantly lower average score (7.8) than lifestyle coordinators (8.7) and personal care workers (8.6).

The improvement in pride scores was a surprise for the industry representatives involved in the research report “given the significant challenges the sector” faced over the period, the report said.

The research identified that 84 per cent of survey participants felt somewhat or strongly supported by their employers during COVID-19.

Aged care workers also felt their skills and experience were more valued by the community during COVID-19, with an average score of 7.2 out of 10 in 2020, up from 7 the previous year.

“It’s a very strong observation that the challenges of working in the sector during COVID have actually forged strong bonds for those working in the sector,” Ms Blakey said.

“It was an incredibly challenging time for the sector, but the key take out is the strong uplift in positive sentiment for the people who work in the [aged care].”

Ms Blakey said the industry needs to act now to improve wages and working conditions to attract the extra workers needed and meet the uplift in standards of care that people are expecting.

“It has to start with the people who are central to delivering those services,” she said.

Ms Blakey said the Federal Government’s $17.7 billion funding package announced in the budget was a missed opportunity to address remuneration issues in aged care.

Other key findings:

  • 7 per cent of full-time aged care employees lost work hours during COVID
  • 21 per cent of casual employees are planning to leave the industry
  • 20 per cent of part-time employees are planning to leave the industry
  • 17 per cent of full-time employees are planning to leave the industry
  • average score on staff satisfaction with their aged care role at their employer rose to 7.2 out of 10 in 2020, up from 6.6 the previous year.

Access the report.

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1 Comment

  1. Aged care has so far not provided the opportunity for self-development and growth, and where one studies with a purpose, one has not been recognised. I can put up with the poor wage but the lack of recognition of skills and study has been the most frustrating experience. For example, the sector lacks a very distinct workforce of aged care counsellors. They have a skill set that’s built from years of experience and then chosen to do UG or PG study in counselling. But it’s a real struggle to get work in this sector. This is not only my experience but a few people I know. The sector has to look at worker and roles beyond direct care. Not all of us want to be at the bottom rung or at the top rung. Some of us actually have insight to identify gaps in aged care and have explored this through further study (at substantial cost) for example counselling as a way to support transition in care, grief and loss, existential crises, and so on.

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