Fair Work Commission decision on 25% pay raise for aged care workers won’t be made until July 2022

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A decision on the landmark aged care work value case put forward by the unions won’t be made for at least another 10 months with the final hearing on the case scheduled for July 2022.

As we reported here, the Health Services Union (HSU) launched the original case for a 25% wage increase for residential care workers in November last year. The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (ANMF) then joined the push which was expanded to include home care workers.

The FWC’s Full Bench has issued directions for the applications to vary the Aged Care Award 2010, the Nurses Award 2010 and the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 to be listed for mention on 19 April 2022 with a hearing to take place between 26 April and 11 May 2022.

Closing written submissions will be due by 3 June 2022 with the oral hearing listed for 6 and 7 July 2022.

The Aged Care Royal Commission’s Final Report had recommended that the Government, unions and providers collaborate to increase award wages in the sector, but the Government noted in its response that the FWC was already considering the issue.

There appears to be no argument that workers should be paid more, but there remains a question mark over who will foot the bill – providers or the Government?

Operators we speak to say that while they want to pay their staff more, their financial viability would be threatened.

One CEO of a stand-alone Tasmanian facility told us yesterday that with staffing costs already at 75% and increasing costs associated with compliance, they will “go broke” if the case is upheld.

The new AN-ACC funding model being introduced in October 2022 and the new independent pricing authority – due to be established this year according to the Government’s five pillars of reform – should theoretically deliver more funding to providers that are efficient and meeting standards.

Is the answer simple however? Everyone pays more.

A number of consumer peaks this week released a formal statement of support for the 25% increase, including the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Carers Australia, Elder Abuse Action Australia, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, National Seniors Australia and the Older Persons Advocacy Network.

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates says that raising wages in aged care is essential to achieving better outcomes in the system – and that means both the Government and consumers will need to pay more for aged care services.

“The consequences of failing to pay workers properly are far-reaching. When our aged care staff are overworked and underpaid, our society’s perception of the value of their work diminishes and the quality of care for older Australians suffers,” he said.

“The bottom line is that if Australia is to have a quality aged care system, the public, through the Government, and the users of aged care, need to be willing to pay for it.”

You can have your say on the case – employers and employer organisations can file evidence and submissions until 4pm on Friday 18 February 2022.

Submissions can be filed in both word and PDF formats to amod@fwc.gov.au.