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Australia’s worse employers

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Clearly there are good and bad facilities. The same with employees, some are caring, some don’t care, its an income, it’s a pathway into Australia. These employees need to be dismissed. but who are they replaced with?. We all agree that standards have to improve.

Australia’s worse employers

The Aged Care Sector has been under scrutiny in recent times following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (‘Royal Commission’) and disproportionate number of COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities. While much of the focus has been on the neglect and abuse of residents in aged care facilities, it is necessary to consider the treatment of employees in aged care facilities. Aged care facilities cannot properly care for residents unless their employees are given the resources to do so. The age care industry certainly has some of Australia’s worse employers. We we many complains about this facilities being toxic workplaces.

Evidence from the Royal Commission and other sources is that employees in the aged-care sector face many issues in their working conditions. This article will outline some of these issues and highlight how they are so severe that it is reasonable to question whether aged care facilities are one of the worst employers in Australia.

Importance of aged care employees

The aged care sector will only become increasingly important as Australia’s population ages. According to the Royal Commission, the number of Australians aged 85 years and over is projected to increase from 515 700 in 2018-9 to more than 1.5 million in 2058.[1]

This will clearly create increased demand for aged care services. However, an issue is whether there is adequate supply of labor to meet this demand. According to the Royal Commission, there were 4.2 working aged people per Australian aged over 65 in 2019. By 2058, this will decrease to 3.1.[2]

Therefore, to meet the increasing demand for aged care services and employees, it is vital that the conditions for employees in the aged care sector are not only adequate but incentivize people to work in this industry. Currently though, the conditions in the aged-care sector make it one of the worst employers in Australia. This needs to change. Many employees that should be dismissed are kept on because there is none else to replace them.

Australia's-worse-employers.-aged-care-are-increasingly-becoming-foreign-owned
Aged care facilities are increasingly becoming foreign owned. We are losing the ability to take care of our own people. Standards need to be enforced to reduce toxic workplaces and toxic employees need to be dismissed.

Understaffing

Understaffing is one of the key issues leading to inadequate provision of aged-care services. The Royal Commission found that 57.6% of aged care facilities are understaffed.[3] This is also one of the reasons why aged-care facilities are arguably one of the worst employers in Australia.

Aged care employees have described how understaffing means they are given impossible workloads. For example, one employee says she and one other nurse oversaw 72 residents.[4] This results in employees being forced to cut corners. For example, rather than providing residents with a shower, simply spraying them with deodorant. Or emotional support for residents would have to be sacrificed.[5]

These employees have also described how, when they complain to management about staffing problems, this is ignored. Alternatively, they are told it was their fault for ‘poor time management’.[6] This is concerning, as it is a workplace right for employees to complain and have their complaints addressed. Of course when there are issues, audits, Dept of Aged Care get involved its the employees fault and in turn are dismissed when its convenient or someone has to be “thrown under the bus”.

Remuneration

The second reason why aged care facilities are one of the worst employers is the low remuneration of aged-care employees. The Royal Commission also found that compared to other industries, aged-care employees are disproportionately remunerated. This is even though aged-care employees typically have TAFE or university qualifications.

One aged care employee from an ABC Four Corners Report described how her ‘young granddaughter was making more than [me] at Safeway’.[7] A survey also found that 75% of aged care employees in 2019 were required to start early or stay late to finish work, without being remunerated. [8]

Several reasons were given for inadequate remuneration of aged care employees in the Royal Commission. First, aged care providers are constrained by the funding they receive from the Australian Government. However, there is evidence that even where funding has increased, employees have not received the benefits.[9]

The Royal Commission also found that the enterprise bargaining system in the aged-care industry is ineffective. Employees are reluctant to strike due to the impact on aged care residents and loss of their already low income.[10] Second, the awards which cover aged care are close to minimum wage. The Aged Care Award 2010 for example, is $2.09 an hour more than the National Minimum Wage.[11] This is despite aged care employees having to engage in physically and emotionally demanding work.

Low remuneration exacerbates the problem of understaffing. According to a 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, low pay was one of the most common reasons aged care employees resigned.[12]

better-conditions-in-aged-care-will-attract-more-committed-employees
Better conditions in aged care will attract more committed employees. Poor performing employees can be dismissed or warned to lift their game.

Hours

The third reason aged care facilities are one of the worst employers is the poor working hours. According to a 2019 survey of Victorian aged care employees, 42.6% had their hours reduced multiple times in the last year.[13] This is partly a consequence of many aged care employees working on a casual or contract basis.[14]

This is despite many aged-care employees wanting increased hours. Concerningly, this has impacted the broader community. One of the reasons for the COVID-19 outbreak in aged care homes was because low hours meant aged care employees were required to work multiple jobs. This increased the transmission of COVID-19 between workplaces.[15]

Risk to Health and Safety

The fourth reason aged care facilities are one of the worst employers is the disproportionate risk to health and safety they are subject to. First, aged care workers are at risk of physical assault by aged care residents. According to the Royal Commission, there is a ‘daily risk of assault’.[16]

Second, the physical nature of the work can result in physical injury. One aged care employee said that when she started the job, she was told that she should quick unless she wanted to suffer from ‘back problems’.[17]Third, aged care employees suffered from disproportionately high contraction of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

In one case, WorkSafe found that Heritage Care Pty Ltd did not adequately train staff in COVID-19 procedures. This resulted in 89 residents and 65 staff contracting COVID-19. Shockingly, 34 of these residents died as a result.[18] Heritage Care Pty Ltd was charged with breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Given the COVID-19 outbreaks in aged-care facilities, it is unlikely to be the only aged-care facility who has breached health and safety laws.

The lack of adequate measures to protect the health and safety of aged care employees could be another reason why people are deterred from entering this industry.

most-staff-are-caring
Most staff are caring. They should be praised. Not bullied, subjected to toxic conditions, threatened with dismissal.

Moving forward

There are currently several reforms under way which hopefully will improve the conditions for employees in the aged care sector. There is currently a case in the Fair Work Commission (the Work value case – Aged care industry) which seeks to increase the minimum wages for aged care employees. A decision is yet to be reached.

The Australian Government is also providing increased funding to aged care providers. Lastly, the Aged Care Act is being rewritten and will be implemented in 2023. It promises to improve the conditions in the aged care industry. In the meantime, aged care employees should understand their workplace rights, which includes the right to complain about their working conditions. It is unlawful for aged care employees to suffer adverse action if they exercise such rights.

Conclusion to Australia’s worse employers

If your a victim of abuse in the age care system you welcome to call or mail us. If you have been unfair dismissed, subject to a workplace investigation that appears to be unfairly targeting you. Call us now for free advice.

Any questions regarding “Australia’s worse employers give us a call. We are A Whole New Approach P/L. We are not employment lawyers, or a government agency, we are independent workplace advisors and commentators. Acknowledged leaders in advocacy work, representation and research. Experts on all matters relating to the workplace.

Call 1800 333 666

Any Fair work Australia and Fair work Commission matters, termination of employment, including being sacked (dismissed), general protections, workplace investigations. All workers rights, employment rights, casual employee issues in he workplace issues, probation period issues, forced to resign, we are happy to hear from you. We work in all states, including Victoria, NSW, QLD, Tas, SA, WA, NT.

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Citations for Australia’s worse employers

[1] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Executive Summary, 1 March 2021) vol 1, 61.

[2] Ibid 62.

[3] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 2, 211.

[4] These People Are Speaking Out About What It’s Like to Work in Aged Care Across Australia’, ABC (Web Page) <https://www.abc.net.au/interactives/agedcare/>.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ‘These People Are Speaking Out About What It’s Like to Work in Aged Care Across Australia’, ABC (Web Page) <https://www.abc.net.au/interactives/agedcare/>.

[8] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 4B, 506.

[9] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 4B 529.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 2, 213.

[13] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 4B, 506.

[14] Ibid 214.

[15] Sandy Cheu, ‘Senate Looks into Aged Care Job Security’ Australian Ageing Agenda (Web Page, April 20 2021) <https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/clinical/senate-looks-into-aged-care-job-security/>.

[16] Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect, 1 March 2021) vol 4B, 532.

[17] Ibid 533.

[18] Australian Associated Press, ‘Melbourne Aged-Care Provider Charged by Workplace Safety Watchdog After Covid Outbreak’ The Guardian (Web Page, 11 July 2022) < https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jul/11/melbourne-aged-care-provider-charged-by-workplace-safety-watchdog-after-covid-outbreak>.

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