On 4 November 2022 the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down its decision on the ANMF and HSU’s applications to increase award wages for all employees working in residential aged care and home aged care.
The unions sought an increase of 25% for all classifications. The FWC decided to grant an interim increase of 15% for direct care workers.
The FWC agreed that for direct care workers in the aged care sector, the existing minimum wage rates do not properly compensate employees for the value of the work performed. They found that wages should increase for ‘work value’ reasons. These included:
- The workload of nurses and personal care employees has increased, as has the intensity and complexity of the work.
- The acuity of residents and clients has increased. People are living longer and entering aged care later as they are choosing to stay at home for longer and receive in-home care. Residents and clients enter aged care with increased frailty, co-morbidities and acute care needs.
- There is an increase in the number and complexity of medications prescribed and administered.
- The proportion of residents and clients in aged care with dementia and dementia-associated conditions has increased.
- Home care is increasing as a proportion of aged care services.
- Since 2003, there has been a decrease in the number of RNs and ENs as a proportion of the total aged care workforce. Conversely, there has been an increase in the proportion of PCWs and AINs.
- Registered Nurses have increased duties and expectations, including more administrative responsibility and managerial duties.
- PCWs and AINs operate with less direct supervision. PCWs and AINs perform increasingly complex work with greater expectations.
- There has been an increase in regulatory and administrative oversight of the Aged Care Industry.
- More residents and clients in aged care require palliative care.
- Employers in the aged care industry increasingly require that PCWs and AINs hold Certificate III or IV qualifications.
- The philosophy or model of aged care has shifted to one that is person-centred and based on choice and control, requiring a focus on the individual needs and preferences of each resident or client.
- Aged care employees have greater engagement with family and next of kin of clients and residents.
- There is an increased emphasis on diet and nutrition for aged care residents.
- There is expanded use and implementation of technology in the delivery and administration of care.
- Aged care employees are required to meet the cultural, social and linguistic needs of diverse communities including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse people and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The FWC accepted our expert evidence that the skill, responsibility and effort required in the RN, EN and AIN/PCW classifications is under-recognised because it is work performed in a female dominated industry and that gender assumptions have contributed to undervaluation.
So, where to from here?
The FWC recognised there was a need for a wage increase to be passed on as soon as possible, but that it needs more evidence to make a final decision. In the coming months, the parties will try and reach agreement on how the increase will be implemented. The FWC will assist if necessary.
Once the mechanism for passing on the increase has been determined, RNs, ENs, AINs and PCWs on award rates will receive a wage increase of 15% on top of the current award rates. We recognise it is not just award reliant employees who need wages to increase. For employees on enterprise agreements, we are seeking to ensure that the Commonwealth Government agrees to fund increases across the sector, so that everyone gets the benefit of the decision.
We are also advocating for the increase to apply to other classifications, in particular recreation and lifestyle officers, chefs and cooks. There will be the opportunity to bring further evidence for aged care workers not covered by the decision, including gardeners, cleaners and administrative staff.
We are very happy with the outcome of the interim decision, but there is more to be done. How and when the increase will be passed on, the scope of any further increases for nurses and care workers and expanding the outcome for staff in other classifications is important work still to come.
The ANMF will update members on how and when the interim increase of 15% will be implemented in the coming months.